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      Australian Lawyer May be Fired for Burning Koran Online

      A commercial contracts lawyer at Queensland University of Technology is likely to be fired after posting a video of himself burning a Koran.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 9/15/2010, 3:47 PM / Last Update: 9/15/2010, 4:23 PM

      Israel news photo

      A commercial contracts lawyer at Queensland University of Technology is likely to be fired after posting a video of himself burning a Koran on the YouTube video sharing website last Friday.

      Australian attorney Alex Stewart is on a leave of absence while his employer conducts an investigation into the privately-made 12 minute video, according to the Brisbane Times. The self-declared atheist appears to be smoking marijuana rolled in pages from the Koran, which he then rates according to which ones “burn better.”

      While Stewart waits to see whether he will lose his job over his off-hours activity, various religious organizations are condemning his act and hoping to head off a violent response by outraged Muslims. Muhammad Wahid, president of the Islamic Association of Australia, called on “hurt” Muslims to remain calm Monday morning and urged them not to retaliate.

      “Of course we're hurt... but I would urge my Muslim fellow men to respond with caution and with responsibility. They should be careful when they respond upon these issues,” Wahid was quoted as saying. “We are a community of tolerance (and) understanding. Of course people will be angry, but I urge they should not take the law into their own hands and they should show their response in a positive way to explain (to) the whole Australian public that we must live in a way that we respect each other's faith and practices.”

      The Catholic Church meanwhile harshly criticized Stewart's actions, saying he had “caused pain in people and may incite anger in people.” Bishop Michael Putney, a spokesman for the church, added, “I don't think that's ever acceptable. I would think his behavior gives atheism a bad name and I suspect the university will be a little bit embarrassed by what he's done.”

      The university did, in fact, condemn Stewart's actions, as did the Queensland Law Society.

      Koran Ripping Redux in America
      Stewart's act was reprised in the United States the next day--the ninth anniversary of the attack that took the lives of some 3,000 people--when a man identified as Derek Fenton was captured on camera ripping pages out of a Koran and burning them near Ground Zero, the site of the “9/11” al-Qaeda terrorist attack. He was quickly taken into custody by police.

      Fenton, was fired on Monday by his employer, the New Jersey Transit, which said his act had violated its code of ethics and violated Fenton's “trust as a state employee.”

      The two Koran burnings came on the heels of a similar threat by a Florida-based Christian pastor, Terry Jones, who had planned to carry out a similar demonstration. The Florida Koran-burning was intended to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the al-Qaeda terrorist attack on the United States, which included an attack on the Pentagon, as well as a downed airliner in Pennsylvania that had been headed for the White House.

      Jones was later persuaded by officials to abandon his plan to burn a pile of the Islamic holy books at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville.