Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fla. minister cancels burning of Qurans on 9/11

 
Terry Jones AP – Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center speaks to the media as Imam Muhammad Musri of the …

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The leader of a tiny church on Thursday backed off his threat to burn the Quran, saying he gave up the plan in exchange for a deal to move a planned Islamic center and mosque away from New York's ground zero. The imam planning the center, however, quickly denied any such deal.
The Rev. Terry Jones had been under intense pressure to back off, including a statement from President Barack Obama and a personal call from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Jones made his announcement outside his church alongside Imam Muhammad Musri, the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida.
After the news conference, Musri told The Associated Press there was an agreement for him and Jones to travel to New York and meet Saturday — on the actual anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — with the imam overseeing plans to build a mosque near ground zero.
"I told the pastor that I personally believe the mosque should not be there, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it is moved," Musri said. "But there is not any offer from there (New York) that it will be moved. All we have agreed to is a meeting, and I think we would all like to see a peaceful resolution."
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said he was surprised by the announcement and that he would not barter.
Speaking to reporters later, Jones was adamant that he was promised that the Islamic center would be moved, and said he would be "very, very disappointed" if it were not.
Jones, the pastor of a Florida Pentecostal church of 50 members, has said that he believes the Quran is evil because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.
Jones on Thursday said he prayed about the decision and that if the site of the mosque was moved, it would be a sign from God to call off the Quran burning.
"We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans," Jones said during the news conference. We would right now ask no one to burn Qurans. We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it."
His decision comes after a firestorm of criticism from leaders around the world. President Barack Obama, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and several Christian leaders had urged Jones to reconsider his plans. They said his actions would endanger U.S. soldiers and provide a strong recruitment tool for Islamic extremists. Jones' protest also drew criticism from religious and political leaders from across the Muslim world.
They warned that the plan would put Americans in danger around the world. In Afghanistan, hundreds of angry Afghans burned an American flag and chanted "Death to the Christians" to protest the planned Quran burning.
Musri thanked Jones and his church members "for making the decision today to defuse the situation and bring to a positive end what has become the world over a spectacle that no one would benefit from except extremists and terrorists" who would use it to recruit future radicals.
Russ Blackburn, Gainesville city manager: "It's very good news for Gainesville and good news for everyone involved."
Jones' neighbors in Gainesville, a city of 125,000 anchored by the sprawling University of Florida campus, also have said they disapprove. At least two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples and Muslim organizations in the city have mobilized to plan inclusive events — some will read from the Quran at their own weekend services.
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.

Suicide attack in Russia kills 15, wounds over 130




ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia – A suicide car bomber hit the central market of a major city in Russia's North Caucasus on Thursday, killing at least 15 and wounding more than 130 people in one of the worst terror attacks in the volatile region in years, officials said.
The attacker detonated his explosives as he drove by the main entrance to the Vladikavkaz market, according to the Emergency Situations Ministry.
At least 15 people, including the suicide bomber, were killed and 133 were wounded in the explosion, said Alexander Pogorely of the Emergency Situations Ministry's branch in southern Russia. He said 87 of the injured were hospitalized, many in grave condition.
Russian television stations showed a shrapnel-littered square in front of the market, with blood stains on the pavement and rows of vehicles scarred by the blast.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent his regional envoy to Vladikavkaz to help coordinate efforts to help the victims.
No one has immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, which was the deadliest such attack in the region since a double suicide bombing killed 12, mostly police officers, in the province of Dagestan in April. Twin suicide bombings on Moscow subway in March killed 40 people and wounded over 100.
The market and its surrounding blocks has been the target of several bomb attacks over the past dozen years, in which scores of people have died.
Vladikavkaz is the capital of the Russian republic of North Ossetia. Although it is less plagued by violence than some other republics in the region such as Chechnya and Dagestan, North Ossetia has suffered ethnic tensions and frequent terror attacks.
It was the scene of the 2004 Beslan crisis, in which Chechen terrorists took hundreds of hostages at a school — a siege that ended in a bloodbath killing more than 330 people, about half of them children.
The Vladikavkaz market was bombed in 1999, killing 55. Another bombing in 2001 killed six people. In 2004, 11 people died when a minibus stopped near the market was bombed.
Unlike most other Caucasus provinces where Muslims make up the majority of the population, North Ossetia is predominantly Orthodox Christian. It has been destabilized by long-simmering tensions between ethnic Ossetians and ethnic Ingush that exploded into an open fighting in 1992.
The market attack came as Muslims were preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
"The crimes like the one that was committed in the North Caucasus today are aimed at sowing enmity between our citizens," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in televised remarks during a meeting met with Russia's top Islamic cleric. "We mustn't allow this."
Russia's North Caucasus region has been gripped by violence stemming from two separatist wars in Chechnya and fueled by endemic poverty, rampant official corruption and police abuses.
In the Caspian Sea province of Dagestan, officials said Thursday that a hotel employee and another civilian were shot to death by men trying to build a bomb in their hotel room.
Republican Interior Ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov said the shooting took place late Wednesday in the capital Makhachkala. He said three armed men fled a room in the small hotel after an explosion and opened fire on a hotel clerk and another person who confronted them. He says police found several bombs and six grenades in the room.
In the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt, on the border with Chechnya, a policeman returning home from work was shot to death, Gasanov said.
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Associated Press Writers Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Arsen Mollayev in Malhachkala contributed to this story.

Imam fears moving NYC mosque could inflame tension

 

NEW YORK – The imam behind a proposed Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero cautioned Wednesday that moving the facility could cause a violent backlash from Muslim extremists and endanger national security.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told CNN that the discourse surrounding the center has become so politicized that moving it could strengthen the ability of extremists abroad to recruit and wage attacks against Americans, including troops fighting in the Middle East.
"The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack," he said, but he added that he was open to the idea of moving the planned location of the center, currently two blocks north of the World Trade Center site.
"But if you don't do this right, anger will explode in the Muslim world," he later said, predicting that the reaction could be more furious than the eruption of violence following the 2005 publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Opponents say the center, which would include a Sept. 11 memorial and a Muslim prayer space, should be moved farther away from where Islamic extremists destroyed the World Trade Center and killed nearly 2,800 people. Supporters say religious freedom should be protected.
Rauf, 61, has largely been absent since the debate over the center erupted earlier this year. He has been traveling abroad, including taking a State Department-funded 15-day trip to the Middle East to promote religious tolerance.
In the interview with CNN's Soledad O'Brien, his first since returning to the U.S. on Sunday, Rauf responded to a number of questions that have been raised about the project.
He said money to develop the center would be raised domestically for the most part.
"And we'll be very transparent on how we raise money," he said, adding that no funds would be accepted from sources linked to extremists.
Rauf said that, in retrospect, he might have chosen a different location for what he described as a multifaith community center.
"If I knew this would happen, if it would cause this kind of pain, I wouldn't have done it," he said.