Joining the widespread condemnation of Florida pastor Terry Jones, for his extreme views against Islam, President Barack Obama on Wednesday said that Mr. Jones’ plans to attack the religion would be a "recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda".
In an interview with ABC News, Mr. Obama said, there could be serious violence in Pakistan or Afghanistan as a result of such religious intolerance and "this could increase the recruitment of individuals who'd be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities".
Mr. Obama’s comments join a growing backlash against Mr. Jones, whose plans were earlier sharply criticised by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and commander of United States forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.
Touching upon the contradiction between Mr. Jones’ views and American values, Mr. Obama said, "I just hope he understands that what he's proposing to do is completely contrary to our values of Americans [and] that this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance."
Could affect U.S. armed forces
Reflecting prior concerns voiced by General Petraeus Mr. Obama added that as a practical matter, he wanted Mr. Jones to understand that the “stunt” planned to pull could greatly endanger U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We're already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat that he's making," Mr. Obama added.
In a speech on Wednesday Ms. Clinton had said, Clinton lamented that Mr. Jones’ Dove World Outreach Centre congregation in Gainesville had received much attention for a "distrustful and disgraceful' means of marking the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. She added that it was regrettable that the pastor, with a church of no more than 50 people, could get the world's attention with his plan. "It is not who we are," she said.
General Petraeus had also attacked the pastor’s plans earlier, saying that it would endanger U.S. troops and the overall military effort. "It 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," the General added.