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Obama says Quran burning in Florida helps al Qaeda

12:44 PM, Sep 9, 2010   |    comments
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President Barack Obama is exhorting a Florida minister to "listen to those better angels" and call off his plan to engage in a Quran-burning protest this weekend.

Obama told ABC's "Good Morning America" he hopes the Rev. Terry Jones listens to the pleas of people who have asked him to call off the plan. The president called it a "stunt."

Photo Gallery: Florida minister plans Quran-burning day

Obama also said in the interview broadcast Thursday morning that what Jones proposes "is completely contrary to our values as Americans. This country has been built on the notion of freedom and religious tolerance."

Obama declared: "This is a recruitment bonanza for al Qaeda."

On CBS' "The Early Show" Thursday, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison - the first Muslim ever elected to Congress - echoed Mr. Obama's feelings, but called for restraint in response.

"I think it certainly has the potential to hurt Americans in uniforms of our country. I think it also damages our Constitution. It damages the fabric of our nation that is based on the idea of religious liberty," Ellison said. "But the thing I'd like to say is that I urge people in congregations, Muslim and other, to urge restraint, to urge patience and to urge caution. You should not reward this provocation with a counter-response."

"I would ask religious leaders to speak to their congregations and say, he's trying to provoke you. Don't be provoked," he said.

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, also appeared on "The Early Show," saying that Jones doesn't have a theological leg to stand on.

"What would Jesus do? Jesus would never do this," Land said. "This is odious. This is absolutely beyond the pale. It doesn't follow the golden rule. Doesn't follow the teachings of Jesus in any way, shape or form. And he's being urged by Christians from all spectrums and other religious leaders not to do this."

But Jones has said he has no plans to relent. He said at a press conference Wednesday that he has received a lot of encouragement for his protest, with supporters mailing copies of the Islamic holy text to his Gainesville church of about 50 followers. The plan is to incinerate the Qurans in a bonfire Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11.

"As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing," said Jones, who took no questions.

There was one small sign the pastor who's never read the Quran or visited a mosque was willing to hear from the other side, CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports. Jones spent 30 minutes with a local imam.

"I think the pastor as a Christian will follow in the footsteps of Christ and will do the right thing," Imam Muhammad Musri told CBS News.

Jones' own daughter has told a Gainesville newspaper that his church is a cult, closed to the outside world and controlled by Jones, who in depositions for a lawsuit said Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism all are "of the devil," Cobiella reports.

Jones said previously he has received more than 100 death threats and has started carrying a .40-caliber pistol since announcing his plan to burn the book Muslims consider the word of God and insist be treated with the utmost respect. The 58-year-old minister proclaimed in July that he would stage "International Burn-a-Quran Day."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and several Christian leaders have asked Jones to reconsider his plans to burn the Qurans outside his Gainesville church Saturday. They say his actions will endanger U.S. soldiers and provide a strong recruitment tool for Islamic extremists.

Jones told CBS News Wednesday morning his intentions had not changed.

"As of right now, we feel that this message is that important. We are still determined to do it, yes," he told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith.

Despite admitting to CBS News in an interview Tuesday that his actions would almost certainly offend all the world's Muslims, Jones insisted Wednesday morning that his "warning" was "geared towards radical Islam," followers of which he claimed were trying to gain control and impose Muslim law in the United States.

Muslims consider the Quran along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad to be sacred. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect Quran is deeply offensive.

Jones' Dove Outreach Center is independent of any denomination. It follows the Pentecostal tradition, which teaches that the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in the modern day. Pentecostals often view themselves as engaged in spiritual warfare against satanic forces.

More stories on the planned Quran burning:

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