The State Department has ordered U.S. embassies around the world to assess security measures ahead of an obscure Florida Christian church group's planned burning of the Koran on Saturday, September 11.
The Associated Press quotes officials as saying that U.S. diplomatic posts have been instructed to hold "emergency action committee" meetings to determine the potential for protests over the church's plans to burn the Muslim holy book on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.
The report says U.S. embassies have been asked to warn American citizens in countries where protests may occur.
The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, has so far rejected appeals from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and senior U.S. military commanders to cancel the planned burning.
The church's leaders have described Islam as violent and oppressive.
"Our burning of the Koran is to call to attention that something's wrong,” the Protestant group’s leader, Pastor Terry Jones, told reporters on September 8. “It is possibly time for us, in a new way, to actually stand up [and] confront terrorism."
General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, said officials are concerned that the burning could be as harmful to the image of the United States as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, where U.S. soldiers were photographed abusing prisoners.
"We're concerned that the images from the burning of a Koran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from Abu Ghraib,” Petraeus said on the U.S. news network NBC.
The images, said Petraeus, “would be in cyberspace forever, they would be non-biodegradable, and they would be used by those who wish us ill to incite violence and to inflame public opinion against us and against our mission here in Afghanistan as well as our missions, undoubtedly, around the world."
Muslims consider the Koran to be sacred, and any intentional damage or show of disrespect to it is offensive to many.
compiled from agency reports