5th August, 2010
An American church has been urged to call off a plan to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks.
Muslim and Christian groups have condemned the protest, saying it will only escalate tensions between the two faiths.
But despite death threats to its members, the Florida-based Dove World Outreach Centre has refused to back down.
The controversial church even claims they have received thousands of messages of support for their stand against what they call an â€˜evil religionâ€™.
The churchâ€™s pastor Terry Jones has called on other religious groups to join in his â€˜International Burn a Koran Dayâ€™ on the ninth anniversary of the terror attack on New York city and Washington DC.
â€˜Islam and Sharia law was responsible for 9/11,â€™ said Jones.
â€˜We see the effects of Islam on Europe. As it has done nothing, Islam is beginning to take over there. Islam is presenting itself as a religion of peace.
â€˜We want to stop its spread here.â€™
Jones said the mass burning of the Koran – the holy book of the Muslim religion – will take place on the grounds of the church in Gainesville, Florida, on the morning of September 11th.
The event has been publicised on the churchâ€™s Facebook page where they have received over 1,500 messages of support.
The church, which boasts over 300 members, is no stranger to controversy having spoken out against homosexuality and abortion.
Last year they put up a sign on their grounds that read â€˜Islam is the Devilâ€™ triggering numerous threats to burn the church down.
US officials are powerless to stop the protest which has been condemned by The National Association of Evangelicals.
Church leaders warned the Koran burning would be offensive to Muslims as well as Christians.
A spokesman said: â€˜The proposed burning of Korans would be profoundly offensive to Muslims worldwide, just as Christians would be insulted by the burning of Bibles.
â€˜Such an act would escalate tensions between members of the two faiths in the United States and around the world.
â€˜The most powerful statement by the organisers of the planned September 11th bonfire would be to call it off in the name and love of Jesus Christ.â€™
The condemnation comes as plans for a mosque near the Ground Zero site in New York have been given the green light.
The cityâ€™s Landmarks Preservation Commission turned down a proposal granting protected status to a 19th century building that a Muslim group would like to transform into a community centre.
The position of the mosque, several hundred yards from where the Twin Towers once stood, has angered family members of the 3,000 victims who died in the terror attacks.
The Al Qaeda launched attack was carried out in the name of Islam by Osama bin Laden.
The organisation behind the facility, the Cordoba Initiative, insist they are not building a mosque but a community centre that will include a prayer centre able to hold five-times-a-day Islamic prayers.
It is also promising to include a memorial to the victims of 9/11.
Former presidential candidate Sarah Palin has criticised the mosque plan which has divided many New Yorkers.