[Update: Terry Jones late Sept. 9 said he was scrapping plans to burn the Koran. He was doing so, he claimed, because planners of an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero in new York had allegedly agreed to move the project away from the site.The Islamic center’s planners have not confirmed the rumor, or Jones’ claim.]
President Obama this morning called Gainesville pastor Terry Jones’ plan to mark the 9/11 anniversary on saturday by burning Korans a “stunt” that “could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan.”
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On Wednesday, the FBI released the following bulletin: “While the FBI has no information to indicate a specific attack has been planned against the United States or U.S. assets in response to the ‘International Burn a Koran Day’ event, the FBI assesses with high confidence that, as with past incidents perceived as acts of desecration against Islam, extremist actors will continue to threaten or attempt to harm the leaders, organizers, or attendees the event.”
The same day, Jones held a press conference to say he would not change plans.
Jones’ plans have triggered anti-American demonstrations, including Jones being burned in effigy, in Afghanistan. Watch:
The president’s interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos aired on Good Morning America. At no point did Stephanopoulos or the president allude to the parallels between Jones’ planned Koran-burning, which has been roundly condemned across the country and the world, and the growing support in conservative ranks for the movement started by Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Rudolph Giuliani to prevent an Islamic center and mosque from being built two blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan–a movement equally offensive to “the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance” Obama referred to when speaking of Jones’ offenses.
The full transcript and video of the interview follow:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you about Pastor Terry Jones. He gave a press conference today. Says he’s going to go through with burning the Korans. Is there anything you can say to him to convince him not to?
OBAMA: If he’s listening, I just hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values of Americans. That this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance. And as a very practical matter, as cCommander of chief of the Armed Forces of the United States I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan. We’re already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat —
STEPHANOPOULOS: What more could happen?
OBAMA: –that he’s making.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What are you worried about?
OBAMA: Well, look, the … this is a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda. You know, you could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who’d be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities. You know and so you know, I just hope that, he says he’s … he’s someone who s motivated by his faith.
STEPHANOPOULOS:And he says he’s praying on it.
OBAMA:Yeah. I hope he listens to…those better angels.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me–
OBAMA:And understands that this is a destructive act that he’s engaging in.
STEPHANOPOULOS:I wonder what this must feel like from behind your desk. You’re President of the United States. You have to deal with the fallout. And he’s a pastor who’s got 30 followers in his church. Does it make you feel helpless or angry?
OBAMA: It, well it is frustrating. Now, on the other hand, we are a government of laws. And so, we have to abide by those laws. And my understanding is that he can be cited for public burning. But that’s the extent of the laws that we have available to us. You know, part of this country’s history is people doing destructive or offensive or harmful things. And yet, we still have to make sure that we’re following the laws. And that’s part of what I love about this country.