At the CFR, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked by Richard Haass about the mosque debate (which she side-stepped) and the Gainesville idiot who is making the world news these days. Quick excerpt below:
HAASS: Speaking of guns, I’m going to be shot if I don’t ask a question that comes from one of our national members. And thanks to the iPad I have on my lap, I can ask it. Several have written in about the impact of the mosque debate in New York, about the threat to burn Korans.
How — what’s your view on all this from the Department of State? How does this complicate your life? (Laughter.)
CLINTON: Well, you know, I mean, we — you know, we’re a country of what, 310 million plus right now? And, I mean, it’s regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distressful, disgraceful plan and get, you know, the world’s attention. But that’s the world we live in right now. I mean, it doesn’t in any way represent America or Americans or American government or American religious or political leadership.
And we are, as you’ve seen in the last few days, you know, speaking out. General Petraeus made the very powerful point that as seemingly, you know, small a group of people doing this, the fact is that it will have potentially great harm for our troops.
So we are hoping that the pastor decides not to do this. We’re hoping against hope that if he does, it won’t be covered. (Laughs, laughter.)
HAASS: Bonne chance!
CLINTON: As a — as a — you know, an act of patriotism.
But I think that it — you know, it’s unfortunate. I mean, it’s not who we are, and we just have to constantly be demonstrating by our words and actions. And as I remind, you know, my friends around the world, in the environment in which we all now operate, anybody with an iPhone, anybody with a blog, can, you know, put something out there which is outrageous. I mean, we went through the cartoon controversy; we went through the Facebook controversy in Pakistan.
Judith McHale, who’s our undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, is on the front lines of — you know, is pushing back on all of this all the time. And so we want to be judged by who we are as a nation, not by something that is so aberrational. And we’ll make that case as strongly as possible.
Read the whole transcript here.
On a related note, Slate quoted from a recent demonstration in Kabul: A student in the crowd said of the planned Qur’an burning:
“We know this is not just the decision of a church. It is the decision of the president and the entire United States.”
He was wrong, of course, but somehow the Florida minister has now become Exhibit A for Christian values and for what Americans are like.
How did it come to this? Take it from Slate’s William Saletan:
Our indiscriminate, collective-responsibility campaign against mosques is being used in an indiscriminate, collective-responsibility campaign against us and our troops.
A pastor who preaches at a nearby Florida church is aghast at the global outrage the Quran-burning minister has provoked. “He represents only 30 people in this town,” the pastor tells the New York Times. “It needs to get out somehow to the rest of the world that this isn’t the face of Christianity.”
It will, Reverend. Right after it gets out to the rest of the world that we don’t think the 9/11 hijackers are the face of Islam.
Meanwhile, HuffPo/AP is reporting that the State Department has ordered U.S. embassies worldwide to convene their EACs or “emergency action committees” to assess their security and the potential for protests over a Florida congregation’s plans to burn the Qu’ran to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The posts are to warn American citizens in countries where protests may occur. Read more here.
The US Embassy in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, has previously released a Idul Fitri greeting that says in part:
[T]he Embassy wishes to state unequivocally that the U.S. Government condemns the plan of a small church group in Gainesville, Florida to burn a Holy Koran on September 11 — the anniversary of the World Trade Center bombings. We believe firmly in freedom of religion and freedom of expression; they are universal rights, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We reaffirm our position that the deliberate destruction of any holy book is an abhorrent act.”
Today, September 9, the US Embassy Jakarta issued the following Warden Message for all posts in Indonesia:
Americans are advised that there may be anti American, possibly disruptive, demonstrations to mark an announced Koran burning on September 11 in Florida. We again remind Americans to exercise prudence and continue to take active, personal responsibility for their security. We suggest that Americans monitor news reports, follow the instructions of Indonesian authorities and avoid demonstrations. We remind Americans that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. Americans are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. Read full text here.
The new US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey and the new Commander of US Forces Iraq, General Lloyd Austin III issued a joint statement condemning the planned burning. Statement in PDF: English | Arabic.
The US Embassy in Kabul issued a similar statement: “The United States government in no way condones such acts of disrespect against the religion of Islam, and is deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups.” Read the whole thing here.
In Pakistan, US Embassy Islamabad Charge d’Affaires Stephen C. Engelken says, “We condemn acts that are disrespectful, intolerant and divisive. We are deeply concerned about all deliberate attempts to offend members of any religious or ethnic group. We believe firmly in freedom of religion and freedom of expression; they are universal rights, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We reaffirm our position that the deliberate destruction of any holy book is an abhorrent act.”
In Turkey, US Embassy Ankara’s Charge d’Affaires Doug Silliman also released the following: “We are deeply concerned about all deliberate attempts to offend members of any religious or ethnic group. We do not condone such acts of intolerance and disrespect, which are understandably offensive to Muslims and those who respect the beliefs of others.” Read full text here.
Take care out there — innocent folks could get caught in this idiocy.