US & Canada

Muslim and Arabic news media react to Koran burn plan

Amid an international uproar over a small Florida church's plan to burn copies of the Koran to mark the 9/11 attacks, BBC Monitoring samples reaction from news media across the Muslim and Arab worlds.

Pan-Arab television

In its Wednesday morning bulletin, al-Jazeera described the plan as an "unprecedented" and "ferocious" attack on Islam and Muslims.

The channel mentioned the official and religious condemnation in the US, highlighting criticism of the move by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington DC.

Al-Jazeera's correspondent said the cancellation by US Muslims of several events marking the Eid ul Fitr holiday, which coincides with the 9/11 anniversary, reflected growing Muslim fears in a nation "where reports are written to assess freedom of religion in other countries".

The story was the third item on Dubai-based al-Arabiya, which reported civilian and military leaders had intensified calls for Mr Jones to scrap the idea. It noted US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called the plan "disgraceful", and reported on a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan.


The story was high on the Egyptian broadcast media's news agenda.

The state-owned Nile News' morning bulletins led with the condemnation by the US state department and the Vatican. The first five headlines on the channel's news ticker covered other international denunciation.

The story was the third item on state-owned Channel One, following news on the Israeli closure of the West Bank and the deaths of two US soldiers in Iraq. The channel focused on Hillary Clinton's comments in which she expressed "solidarity with other US condemnations of burning the Koran".

In the state-owned al-Akhbar newspaper, commentator Fawzi Mukhaymar predicted the plan to burn copies of the Koran "will lead to an uproar in the Islamic world" and would have a "dangerous impact on international peace and security". He advised Muslims and Christians to stand together against attempts to "sow sedition and fanaticism" between religions.

Voice of the Arabs state radio carried reports on the Koran story at the tail end of its 0600 GMT news bulletin. It said authorities in Florida had stepped up security measures ahead of the planned bonfire and it reported panning of the move from the White House and religious leaders in the US.


Iran national media gave little prominence to the planned event.

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted a US judge telling al-Jazeera TV that rights of US Muslims were being violated. The judge was quoted as tying the planned Koran burning to the November US Congressional elections.

It was the second story on the international English-language Press TV at 0400, 0500 and 0600 GMT news.

The channel showed Pastor Jones saying: "People are afraid of radical Islam… We hope that it brings the awareness that it is really there, that it is a force to be reckoned with and we must show them that we are willing to do whatever is necessary so that they do not push their agenda through."

Press TV also aired a correspondent's report from the US on a "closed-door" session for interfaith leaders organized by the Islamic Society of North America in Washington with the aim of calling on Americans to reject hatred and "a growing anti-Muslim frenzy".

The channel also aired a phone interview with Mark Glenn, identified as an author and journalist from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, saying Mr Jones was just trying to get his name into the news.

"The US government… will stand by its policy of murdering Muslims in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan but yet it will try to rehabilitate its image by condemning the burning of this book," Mr Glenn was quoted as saying.

Iran's Arabic-language al-Alam television led its bulletin reporting the US government's rejection of the plan. But it also remarked the move was a sign of "deeply-rooted hatred" of Islam by "Zionist Christians".

The broadcaster said Tehran had warned that the burning could provoke an uncontrollable Muslim response. The station also included a reading of a passage from the Koran calling on Muslims "not to fear or feel sad".

London-based Arabic press

The story appeared on the front pages of London-based Arabic newspapers.

In its editorial, al-Quds al-Arabi said that the plan was a "criminal act" that fed into the extremists' agenda. The paper warned that it might lead to "bloody wars and reprisals" that could be "more dangerous" than the 9/11 attacks. It also reported wider international and Arab denunciation.

The story was a less prominent headline for Saudi-owned al-Hayat, which cited White House and Vatican condemnation.

It was the second main headline for al-Sharq al-Awsat, which reported similar aspects including Washington, Vatican and Nato warnings against the burning.

Al-Arab al-Alamiyah led with the story, focusing on condemnation from Gen David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Afghanistan.

Other Arabic language media

Qatari al-Watan newspaper wrote in an 8 September editorial that burning copies of the Koran was part of a "provocative trend against Muslims and Islam". The paper added that the official US denunciation was not enough and that the International Criminal Court at the Hague should be authorised to prosecute disrespect of religions. Also: "National constitutions and laws have to include equivalent texts so as not to let such acts provoke feelings and escalate tensions."

Two Algerian newspapers covered the story in only factual reports.

The story did not feature at all in the morning Syrian state TV news bulletin.

Pakistan and Afghanistan

Pakistan's state-run PTV News carried a short report in its 1000 GMT Urdu-language bulletin focusing on strong condemnation from US state department spokesman Philip Crowley and US Attorney General Eric Holder. The report also said protests against the planned event continued in neighbouring Afghanistan.

English-language channel Express 24/7 carried a minute-long report captioned "Anti-Islam plan resented".

Lahore's The Nation online featured the story prominently with the headline: "Florida pastor weighing plans to burn Quran amid US warnings".

In Afghanistan, independent Tolo TV reported US "concern" at the plan in the second story in its 0430 GMT bulletin.

No newspapers were published in Afghanistan on a public holiday marking the anniversary of the 2001 assassination of anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Masood.


The Jakarta Post carried a report from the Associated Press news agency saying Mr Jones "was still praying" about the issue while the White House was leading calls to desist, plus another item quoting Gen Petraeus' warning.

The Jakarta Globe carried an AFP news agency dispatch from Florida which said US authorities "appeared powerless" to stop the burning going ahead.

The mainstream Muslim daily Republika cited protests by Indonesian Christian groups against the plan as its fifth lead, while Media Indonesia's top international story was a report on US religious leaders condemning the plan.

Nigeria and Sudan

There was little coverage in the Sudanese media. A commentary by Uthman al-Mirghani published by the privately-owned Al-Tayyar newspaper said the plan would be "a call to recruit the Mujahideen".

Most of Nigeria's online newspapers carried news reports on the issue while a few commentators condemned the threat.

Kosovo and Bosnia

Radio Kosova carried a news report at the top of the foreign portion of its main morning bulletin. The broadcaster said the church had reiterated it would not yield on its plans. It emphasized that the burning ceremony had been condemned by the US administration.

Bosnian national public broadcaster BHTV1 reported on the planned burning in its mid-day bulletin. The headline said the US was "deeply concerned". BH Radio 1 carried a similar report and Gen Petraeus' reaction.


In Turkey's Star newspaper, columnist Mehmet Altan described Mr Jones as a "provocateur" disguised as a clergyman. His piece also reported on the condemnation from religious and civil figures in the US.

He wrote: "This 'priest', who has obviously sworn to cause trouble, told the New York Times he was going to ignore everybody and carry out a burning on 11 September.

"When asked what he knew of the holy Koran Mr Jones admitted that he had 'no experience or knowledge in this matter' saying that he only knew what the Bible said.

"It is clear that he not just a provocateur but also a charlatan.

"Now, everyone with their head on straight is trying to foil this 11 September-timed act of provocation."

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