9/11 Commemorated as Florida Koran Burning Cancelled
Solemn memorial ceremonies were held around the United States Saturday to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks that occurred in New York, Washington, and Shanksville, PA. Thousands of people gathered at each site, with officials and family members eulogizing the victims and reading off their names.
U.S. President Barack Obama took the opportunity to comment on the growing tension between Islam and the West, telling Americans to “remain true to their values” and refuse to paint all Muslims as terrorists. “The highest honor we can pay those we lost, indeed our greatest weapon in this ongoing war, is to do what our adversaries fear the most – to stay true to who we are, as Americans; to renew our sense of common purpose; to say that we define the character of our country, and we will not let the acts of some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent and cower in caves distort who we are,” Obama said.
Meanwhile, what promised to be the most dramatic spectacle of the day – an organized burning of Korans by a Florida pastor – fizzled out, as Reverend Terry Jones told a news conference that he “will not burn a Koran, not now, not ever.” Jones, who had planned the burning at his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, in protest over the increased incursion of Islamic influence in the United States, cancelled the event, and instead flew to New York to participate in 9/11 ceremonies there. A rumor Thursday to the effect that Jones had worked out a deal with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to relocate the proposed Islamic center to be built two and a half blocks from Ground Zero proved to be false, and a meeting Jones said was planned with Rauf did not materialize. The Islamic center is a focus of protest on Saturday by groups opposed to its proximity to the site of the 9/11 attacks.
Days before the burning was to take place, politicians and public officials – going up to the White House – urged Jones not to go forward with the burning. In a statement Tuesday, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said that the move would endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said earlier that the event “is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems ... Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."
As Petraeus predicted, rioting against the planned burning broke out in Afghanistan – and elsewhere - on Saturday. More than 10,000 people took part in what started out as a peaceful protest in a city near Kabul, but the protest quickly deteriorated into a riot, with demonstrators throwing rocks and burning down shops. The State Department warned Americans traveling in Muslim countries to be careful, and a South African court banned a public burning of the Bible that had been planned by Muslims in retaliation for the cancelled Koran burning. Protests were held in Gaza and PA controlled areas, with protestors shouting epithets and calling for the destruction of Israel and the U.S.