President Barack Obama implored a Florida minister to call off his Quran-burning “stunt,” saying it would jeopardize U.S. troops abroad.
Obama told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview aired Thursday that he hopes the Rev. Terry Jones of Florida listens to “those better angels” and to the individuals and organizations pleading with him to change his mind.
“If he’s listening, I hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans,” the president said. “That this country has been built on the notion of freedom and religious tolerance.”
“And as a very practical matter, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women who are in uniform,” Obama said.
Said Obama: “Look, this is a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaida. You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan.” The president also said Jones’ plan, if carried out, could serve as an incentive for terrorist-minded individuals “to blow themselves up” to kill others.
Jones has said that a call from the Pentagon, State Department or White House might make him reconsider his plan. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said government officials are discussing that possibility, though no final decision has been made. Gibbs said the president has not been involved in those discussions.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell added Thursday that whether to issue the personal appeal was “not an easy decision” because it could provoke other extremists “who, all they want, is a call from so-and-so.”
Obama has gotten caught up in the burgeoning controversy surrounding the practice of Islam in America, saying at one point that he believed that Muslims had a right to build a mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York City.
Earlier, several members of his administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, had denounced the Quran-burning plan.
Also, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the ground commander in Afghanistan, has said the act of burning the Quran could endanger troops fighting there.
The State Department is cautioning Americans worldwide that there is a “high potential” for violent anti-American demonstrations if the church goes through with its plans. Officials noted that demonstrations have already been reported in Afghanistan and Indonesia and they urged Americans abroad to avoid areas where protesters might gather.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press