A small church in Gainesville, Florida has planned to burn the Quran in commemoration of the ninth anniversary of September 11th.
The planned Quran burning at the Dove World Outreach Center, led by Pastor Terry Jones, has caused a ruckus at home and abroad.
Yet the actual long-term impact of this planned Quran burning remains to be seen. Critics fear that this brazen act of hate and bigotry can pave the way for more incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination and perhaps violence.
Further, General David Petraeus in a statement warned that burning Qurans â€œis precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems â€“ not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.â€
Angry protesters in Kabul have already condemned the planned Quran burning, lashing out against the U.S. and demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
In Gainesville and across other U.S. cities, though, the planned Quran burning has prompted a flurry in interfaith dialogue and calls for peace and tolerance.
On September 2nd, twenty religious leaders on behalf of Muslims, Christians, and Jews stood together in solidarity on the steps of Gainesville City Hall to decry the proposed Quran burning.
The Rev. Milford Lewis Griner, the pastor at Hall Chapel United Methodist Church in Rochelle, called for the community to â€œrise up with boldness and swift determination and show forth love, peace and understanding at this time in our history. Let it be declared that we stood together and spoke and prayed as one community and collectively became a new biblical David that brought down a new and threatening Goliath with a spiritual stone of humanity.â€
Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe at the city commission meeting also issued a proclamation declaring September 11th as â€œInterfaith Solidarity Day.â€
In addition, the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville will be holding interfaith events to promote unity, understanding, and hope.
A group called the Gainesville Muslim Initiative has planned a series of counter events, which include lectures at the University of Florida about the Quran, an interfaith vigil, and open house events at the local masajid.
On September 4, Muslims hosted an iftar program for local community leaders, city commission members, religious leaders and University of Florida officials at the Hoda Center in Gainesville.
Meanwhile, officials at the University of Florida are concerned that the Quran burning event, which has garnered worldwide media attention, could have a negative impact on the university image as accepting of diversity and promoting tolerance and understanding.
â€œItâ€™s important that Gainesville be recognized as a welcoming place for people of diverse backgrounds, interests and abilities,â€ UF President Bernie Machen told The Gainesville Sun, â€œThatâ€™s what makes this a great place.â€