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Mikulski: Quran-burning 'disgraceful,' 'un-American'

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is calling plans by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Muslim holy book on Saturday "disgraceful and un-American."

"The anniversary of the devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11 should not be marked with an act of hatred," the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. "Book burning is the action of fanatics and fascists. The Quran should be treated with the same respect given to the Bible and the Torah."

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Terry Jones, pastor of the nondenominational Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., says the church will proceed with "International Burn-a-Quran Day" despite condemnations by the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the White House.

Gen. David Petraeus warned in an e-mail to The Associated Press that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence."

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Petraeus spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the matter Wednesday, the AP reports.

"They both agreed that burning of a Quran would undermine our effort in Afghanistan, jeopardize the safety of coalition troopers and civilians," spokesman Col. Erik Gunhus said, and would "create problems for our Afghan partners ... as it likely would be Afghan police and soldiers who would have to deal with any large demonstrations."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Jones to cancel the event, the AP reports.

"It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world's attention, but that's the world we live in right now," Clinton said in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mikulski's comments followed a statement Tuesday by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, the chairman and co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission, condemning anti-Muslim rhetoric from opponents of the Park51 Islamic center proposed for Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero.

"In a country founded on the principles of religious freedom we should not be in the business of picking and choosing when to apply those principles," they said. "It is unfortunate that so many national leaders have said they would deny Muslims or persons of any faith the right to build a place of worship."

Mikulski called on religious, political and community leaders to denounce the "hateful" Quran burning.

"It could incite hate crimes like the burning of mosques and churches and the defacement of synagogues," she said. "These are hate crimes that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The actions of Pastor Terry Jones and his church are dangerous and despicable. They are an insult to America and all that we value."

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