Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday called a Florida church's threat to burn copies of the Muslim holy book to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks a "disrespectful, disgraceful act."
Others in the Obama administration weighed in against the proposed burning, including Attorney General Eric Holder, who called it idiotic and dangerous. A State Department spokesman branded the planned protest "un-American" while other officials warned that it could threaten U.S. troops, diplomats and travelers overseas.
The Christian minister organizing the Quran burning said he will 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, Fla., with an anti-Islam philosophy, said he had received more than 100 death threats and had taken to wearing a pistol on his hip.
In Washington, a broad coalition of religious leaders from evangelical, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim organizations called Jones' plan a violation of American values.
Clinton condemned the threat to burn the Quran during her remarks at a State Department dinner she hosted in observance of Iftar, the breaking of the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths," Clinton said.
At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs echoed concerns raised by Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, about the plans. Petraeus said earlier that images of the event would be used by extremists "to inflame public opinion and incite violence."
"Any type of activity like that that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern to this administration," Gibbs told reporters.
Holder met Tuesday with religious leaders to discuss recent attacks on Muslims and mosques around the United States. The meeting was closed to reporters, but a Justice Department official who was present confirmed that Holder said the plan to burn the holy book was idiotic. The official, who requested anonymity because the meeting was private, also said Holder was quoting Petraeus when he used the word "dangerous."
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the administration hoped that more Americans would stand up and condemn the church's plan.
"We think that these are provocative acts," Crowley said. "We would like to see more Americans stand up and say that this is inconsistent with our American values; in fact, these actions themselves are un-American."
"We hope that between now and Saturday there will be a range of voices across America that make clear to this community that this is not the way for us to commemorate 9/11," he said. "In fact, it is consistent with the radicals and religious bigots who attacked us on 9/11."
Crowley defended his choice of the term "un-American" to describe the planned Quran burning, saying it was "a divisive potential act of disrespect to one of the world's great religions."
"While we support (and) defend our freedoms, including freedom of expression, this is an action that has potential serious ramifications," he said.
U.S. diplomats had already reported small-scale demonstrations against the Quran burning in several countries "where anxiety levels are building because of the publicity surrounding this proposed action," he said. "It does put the lives of ordinary Americans at risk, as well as diplomats, as well as soldiers."
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he too was concerned about the effect the planned Quran burning may have. "Of course there is a risk it will also have a negative impact on the security for our troops," Rasmussen told reporters in Washington, ahead of a meeting with Obama at the White House.