(KFVS/CBS) - In his annual address to parliament on Tuesday March 22, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari denounced the burning of the Muslim Holy book by an American pastor and said it posed a serious setback to efforts aimed at "harmony and peace in the world."
The Christian preacher Terry Jones, who after international condemnation last year canceled a plan to burn copies of the Koran to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, supervised the burning of the Muslim holy book in front of a crowd of about 30 people at an obscure church in Florida on Sunday, March 20, media reports said.
Dozens of protesters took to the streets of Karachi on Tuesday as news of the desecration of the Koran spread through the Muslim majority country.
"There can be no greater act of terrorism than setting the Koran on fire instead of reading and understanding it," said protester Mohammad Rafi.
"This act by Terry Jones is going to destroy the peace of the world," Rafi added.
Zardari started his annual address to parliament by condemning the act.
"May I at the outset, strongly condemn on behalf of the people of Pakistan and on my own behalf, the deliberate desecration of the Holy Koran by a fanatic in Florida," he told members of parliament.
"We condemn this act in the strongest possible words. It is a serious setback to the efforts at promoting harmony among civilized communities throughout the world," he added.
The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter also condemned the burning of the Koran in Florida.
U.S. ally Pakistan is a pre-dominantly Muslim nation and is fighting a growing insurgency by Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, but hardline Islamist groups tend to exploit sensitive religious issues for political interests and also to whip up anti-U.S. sentiments.
Zardari said Pakistan had to defeat the mindset that preaches violence and hatred.
"We will fight militants to the finish -- we will not back down. We will ensure a modern, moderate Pakistan, the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. We cannot permit the use of our soil for terrorist activities against any other country -- We will not. The fight against militancy may be long and bitter, but we have no other option except to win. Win we will and soon, God willing," Zardari said.
President Obama had previously said burning the Koran could cause quote "profound damage" to U.S. troups and interests around the world.
General David Patreus said that burning the Koran could be another Abu Gharib.
Graphic photos of tortured prisoners at Iraq's Abu Gharib sparked riots through Islamic countries, and Patreus and the president were concerned the burning could spark more violence against American troops.
Media reports said Jones had launched a new organization, "Stand Up America", and plans to protest against the Koran, Islamic Shariah law and radical Islam.
Jones had previously said he would never burn the Koran, even if the controversial Ground Zero mosque was built in New York City.
He has scheduled an April event in front of an Islamic centre in Dearborn, Michigan.
Jones is a graduate of Cape Central High School.
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