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Press review: Who will stop Quran-burning pastor?

By Simon Hooper, CNN
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Muslim reaction to Quran burning
  • Muslim newspapers express outrage over Florida church's Quran-burning plan
  • Local Gainesville Sun paper says stunt "a calculated act of religious intolerance"
  • Many papers question why U.S. authorities are powerless to prevent burning
  • Event expected to spark angry protests across the Muslim world

(CNN) -- Newspapers from the town at the center of the Florida Quran-burning controversy and across the Muslim world have expressed outrage over a church's plan to set fire to copies of the Muslim holy book on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

In an editorial, the local Gainesville Sun condemned the plan by the Dove World Outreach Center as "a calculated act of religious intolerance" and compared its possible repercussions to chaos theory, in which a butterfly flapping its wings in China can set off a hurricane in Florida.

"A butterfly has no choice but to flap its wings, whatever the ripple effect and whatever the ensuing chaos. But members of Dove World do have a choice," the paper said. "In the name of human decency, they can choose to cancel their plan. In the name of patriotism they can choose not to endanger our troops."

A cartoon in the Sun showed the church's pastor, Terry Jones, flying a burning Quran into a pair of minarets with the caption: "Rev. Terry Jones marks 9/11."

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In Pakistan, where outraged religious groups plan protests from Friday into the weekend, the Nation newspaper warned that "fanaticism and violent extremism are not restricted to any one creed or ethnic group" and said the event was the "ultimate sign of hatred and bigotry" towards Muslims in the U.S.

"This shows once again how the Americans have their own equivalent of the illiterate extremist 'preachers' they so readily condemn in Muslim states," the paper concluded.

Quran burning reaction pours in from around the world

Many Arab papers also questioned the failure of U.S. authorities to prevent a stunt by a church described as a "tiny group of extremists" by Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Qatar-based Gulf Times urged U.S. President Barack Obama to prevent the burning, drawing comparison with the raft of anti-terror legislation introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

"Local police say they are powerless to stop the desecration. Think back to the immediate aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks when U.S. President George W. Bush introduced a series of emergency measures that gave him unprecedented control of the country. With 100,000 U.S. troops and hundreds of American aid workers in Afghanistan this is another emergency, Mr President."

Turkish tabloid Vatan summed up the controversy with a picture of Rev. Jones, and the headline: "Against the whole world! Who will stop the crazy priest?"

Writing in Indonesia's Jakarta Post, Muhamad Ali said the Quran-burning plan, as well as protests over plans to build an Islamic center and a mosque within a few blocks of the former World Trade Center site, demonstrated that Muslims in the U.S. and around the world had been forced to "redefine their identity" in the wake of the 2001 attacks.

One thing is quite sure: Being Muslim today is different from being Muslim before 9/11
--Muhamad Ali, Jakarta Post

"Many Muslims are expected to be tolerant of others when part of the others continues to show prejudice toward them," Ali wrote.

"One thing is quite sure: Being Muslim today is different from being Muslim before 9/11. There are choices to be made: To continue in goodness and wisdom, or to become reactionary and violent, perpetuating others' ignorance and prejudice that have long prevailed."

In a blog published on the Al Jazeera website, correspondent Nick Spicer wondered whether the citing of the U.S. constitutional right to free speech was appropriate in the case of a Quran-burning event, pointing that such events would be forbidden by hate speech laws in most western countries.

He warned that an "anything goes" attitude in the right-wing media in the U.S. was portraying Muslims as an "enemy within" whose depiction was "increasingly beyond the pale" and concluded: "It is difficult to not to ask yourself at times if the free speech fetish hasn't gone too far."

Reza Sayah in Pakistan, Caroline Faraj in the United Arab Emirates and Yesim Comert in Turkey contributed to this report.