S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called an American church’s threat to burn copies of Holy Qur’an to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks a “disrespectful, disgraceful act”.

Others in the Obama administration joined the US secretary of state to weigh in against the proposed burning, including Eric Holder, the attorney general, who called it idiotic and dangerous. A state department spokesman called the planned protest “un-American”.

The Christian minister organising the Qur’an burning said Tuesday he would go ahead in spite of the government’s concerns. Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, a small, evangelical Christian church in Gainesville, Florida, with an anti-Islam philosophy, said he had received more than 100 death threats and had taken to wearing a pistol. He told American television he would not back away from “the dangers of radical Islam”.

At Iftar, a meal marking the breaking of the Ramadan fast, at the state department Tuesday night, Clinton said: “We sit down together for this meal on a day when the news is carrying reports that a pastor down in Gainesville, Florida, plans to burn the holy Qur’an on September 11. I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths, from Evangelical Christians to Jewish rabbis as well as secular US leaders and opinion makers.

“Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. Many of you know that in 1790, George Washington wrote to a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that this country will give ‘to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance’. The real story of Islam in America can be found in this room and rooms across America. We write it tonight in the spirit of fellowship and the celebration of goodwill that is a hallmark of Ramadan. We will write it in the months and years to come as we continue to reach out to engage people around the world in a search for common ground, common understanding and common respect.”

On Saturday, thousands of Indonesian Muslims rallied outside the US embassy in Jakarta and in five other cities to protest against the church’s plans. Press in the Middle East has also been critical of the plans.

The U.S Embassy condemns plans by a Florida church to burn hundreds of copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. “We condemn acts that are disrespectful, intolerant and divisive,” said Charge d’Affaires Stephen C. Engelken.

“We are deeply concerned about all deliberate attempts to offend members of any religious or ethnic group.” “We believe firmly in freedom of religion and freedom of expression; they are universal rights, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We reaffirm our position that the deliberate destruction of any holy book is an abhorrent act,” said Engelken.

Officials in Gainesville, Florida, where the church is located, denied the church’s permit for the burning under the local fire ordinance and have said they will take further steps if the Church goes forward with its plans. Public condemnation of this event has come from a variety of organizations including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Anti-Defamation League.

As she hosted an Iftar meal at the State Department in Washington Tuesday evening, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the condemnation of the planned act, saying “I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths, from evangelical Christians to Jewish rabbis, as well as secular U.S. leaders and opinion-makers. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. Many of you know that in 1790, George Washington wrote to a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that this country will give ‘to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance’.—Agencies