A Christian minister said Tuesday that he will go ahead with plans to burn copies of the Quran to protest the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks despite warnings from the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and the White House that doing so would endanger U.S. troops.

Gen. David Petraeus warned Tuesday 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.”

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley echoed that later in the day, calling the plan to burn copies of the Quran “un-American” and saying it does not represent the views of most people in the U.S.

“While it may well be within someone’s rights to take this action, we hope cooler heads will prevail,” Crowley said. He said burning copies of the Quran would be “inconsistent with the values of religious tolerance and religious freedom,” and potentially puts the lives of U.S. soldiers and diplomats at risk.

The fire department has denied Jones a required burn permit for Saturday, but he has vowed to go ahead with his event.

Muslims consider the Quran to be the word of God and insist it be treated with the utmost respect, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Quran is deeply offensive.

In this progressive north Florida town of 125,000 anchored by the sprawling University of Florida campus, the lanky preacher with the bushy white mustache is mostly seen as a fringe character who doesn’t deserve the attention he’s getting.

Still, at least two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples and Muslim organizations in Gainesville have mobilized to plan inclusive events — some will read from the Quran at their own weekend services — to counter what Jones is doing. A student group is organizing a protest across the street from the church Saturday.

The Vatican newspaper on Tuesday published an article in which Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha of Lahore, Pakistan, criticized Jones’ plan.

“No one burns the Quran,” read the headline in Tuesday’s L’Osservatore Romano.

Jones, who has about 50 followers, gained some local notoriety last year when he posted signs in front of his small church proclaiming “Islam is of the Devil.”

The Quran, according to Jones, is “evil” because it espouses something other than the Christian biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.

“It’s hard for people to believe, but we actually feel this is a message that we have been called to bring forth,” he said last week. “And because of that, we do not feel like we can back down.”

“Whenever there’s a perception that America is somehow anti-Muslim, that harms our image and interests around the Islamic world,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim civil rights group that has worked to discredit Jones and counter his message.

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