Today, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for Americans traveling abroad based on this weekend's proposed burning of copies of the Muslim holy book at the Dove World Outreach Center church in Gainesville, Fla.
The warning reads as follows:
The State Department's alert comes just hours after Interpol, the international police agency, issued its own contingency-linked warning.The Department of State is issuing this Travel Alert to caution U.S. citizens of the potential for anti-U.S. demonstrations in many countries in response to stated plans by a church in Florida to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Demonstrations, some violent, have already taken place in several countries, including Afghanistan and Indonesia, in response to media reports of the church's plans. The potential for further protests and demonstrations, some of which may turn violent, remains high. We urge you to pay attention to local reaction to the situation, and to avoid areas where demonstrations may take place. This Travel Alert expires on September 30, 2010.
"If the proposed Koran burning by a pastor in the U.S. goes ahead as planned, there is a strong likelihood that violent attacks on innocent people would follow," Interpol's statement read.
U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus has likewise foreseen American bloodshed should a Muslim holy book go up in flames at the hands of the Rev. Terry Jones.
In New Bedford, Mass., on Wednesday, police were called to investigate a bomb scare after a local resident engaged in a chat room conversation about the Quran burning spotted a suspicious package outside her home. It turned out to be an old typewriter.
Some observers are wondering how the world got to the point where the actions of a fringe religious zealot who leads a congregation of just 50 people should automatically guarantee physical harm to innocent citizens.
After all, with politicians ranging from President Barack Obama to Sarah Palin condemning the Quran burning, it should be clear to the outside world that most Americans, not to mention their elected government, are against this act of protest.
Moreover, as was voiced by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday, not everyone believes that the deeply held American value of religious tolerance is mutually exclusive from the constitutionally enshrined right of freedom of expression.
"The right of the Reverend Terry Jones and his silly band of holy warriors at the Dove Outreach Center to burn the Muslim holy book is, however distasteful, protected under the First Amendment," wrote a Deacon Tim at the blog Sacraments Wholesale. "It is un-Christian, uncharitable, disgusting and needlessly provocative. It is not, however, un-American. It is protected speech and protected religion. It is within my right, as a fellow Christian minister, to tell Jones that such actions make him fit only for the Hell he dreams of for Muslims. It is not the right of the United States Government to say that."
On the other hand, numerous religious leaders see it differently, as was expressed in Gainesville during an interfaith rally against the proposed Quran burning on Monday.
"Holy books should be sacrosanct," said James Chamberlain, executive director of the Catholic Action Resource Exchange. "It doesn't matter what holy book, of what faith or of what people, it should be sacrosanct."