At a mock trial of the Koran at the Church of Pastor Terry Jones in Florida, the “jury” found the Qu’ran guilty of promoting violence and proceeded the burn the holy book of the Islamic faith.
Only a handful of people were present for the event, which was held on Sunday March 20th, 4pm-10pm, 2011, but it was streamed live on Truthsat-tv. “Stand Up America” and the volunteers working with Pastor Terry Jones also publicised the event on their website, Facebook and Twitter so that news reached right around the world.
The event has been described by one juror as “a sincere attempt by some considerate and learned Christian men and women to explain to the jury why they left Islam, to examine the actual Koranic texts and its interpretation, and to expose their personal experience of how Islam, based on the Qur’an, is being used to inflict bodily harm and death on people whose only crime is not being a Muslim or not being Muslim enough.”
A violent reaction to the Qu’ran burning had been anticipated by regional leaders.
On Thursday 24th March, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan met with a US congressional delegation led by Mr. Rob Wittman, Member House Armed Services Committee, at Aiwan-e-Sadr. The President strongly condemned the desecration of the Qu’ran at the meeting and told the delegation that he had instructed the Foreign Office of Pakistan to register its protest with all internaional forums.
On Friday 25th March 25, 2011, the Pakistani President telephoned President Abdullah Gul of Turkey to discuss the “deliberate desecration of the Holy Quran by a lunatic in Florida and the need for collectively urging the UN to take note of it and evolve plans for promoting cultural and religious harmony in the world.” On the same day, he also discussed the incident with Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Secretary-General National Security Council of Saudi Arabia.
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan had also condemned the incident and asked the US government to arrest Pastor Terry Jones.
As a result of the news of the burning, riots took place in Afghanistan which left at least four Gurkhas and three UN staff dead.
At about 4:30 p.m. on Friday 1st April 2011 a large crowd of demonstrators stormed the United Nations compound in Mazar-i-Sharif which contained an operations centre for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
UNAMA has confirmed that three international staff working with the mission were killed, as well as four Nepalese Gurkha soldiers serving as guards at the operations centre. An unconfirmed number of Afghan demonstrators were also killed. Many staff were also wounded, including the head of UNAMA’s office in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that the demonstration was one of several held across Afghanistan on the same day. He said many of the demonstrators in Mazar-i-Sharif were armed and, while the security guards tried their best, the crowd was so large that they were soon outnumbered.
The UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the attacks as “outrageous and cowardly”. In a statement the Secretary-General said those killed “were dedicated to the cause of peace in Afghanistan and to a better life for all Afghans. These brave men and women were working in the best tradition of the United Nations and gave their lives in the service of humanity.”
The Security Council issued a press statement in the wake of the attack, with its 15 members condemning “all incitement to and acts of violence” and expressing their deep condolences to the families of the victims.
The Council called on Afghan authorities to take “all possible steps” to protect UN personnel and premises, and to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.
Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and the head of UNAMA, has arrived in Mazar-i-Sharif to lead a team that is investigating the attack and assessing the situation. A senior team from UN Headquarters, including Mr. Ban’s Chef de Cabinet Vijay Nambiar and Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security Gregory Starr, is also on its way to the country to review the security situation.
The UN will continue to have a presence in Mazar-i-Sharif.