Amid the continuing row over a small church’s plan to burn copies of the Quran, the american president issued a plea for religious tolerance.
Even though the church’s pastor Terry Jones (photo, from nydailynews.com) has put his plans on hold, they have sparked international outrage.
Barack Obama told reporters at the White House: “We have to make sure we don’t start turning on each other.”
He repeated his hope that the burning would not take place and his fears that it would endanger the lives of US troops.
Muslim countries around the world were outraged at the proposed Quran burning, which was heavily criticised by world leaders.
On Friday, protests were reported in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as people emerged from Eid prayers marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
When a protest near a Nato base in north-east Afghanistan turned violent, three people were shot by private security guards.
Obama told reporters: “We are all Americans that stand together against those that would do us harm.
“It is absolutely important now for the overwhelming majority of American people to hang on to that thing that is best in us – that is our belief in religious tolerance, our clarity about who our enemies are,” he said.
“I will do everything I can, as long as I am president of the United States, to remind the American people that we are one nation under God. We may call that god different names but we are one nation.”
‘Contrary to what this nation stands for’
The US president said those words after Terry Jones said he was suspending his plans to stage an International Burn a Quran Day on Saturday, the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York.
The Florida pastor indicated that he had made the decision after the group behind a controversial Islamic cultural centre due to be built near Ground Zero agreed to relocate it.
However the group has denied making such a deal with Jones.
Obama also denied that his administration’s intervention in the affair had elevated it to greater prominence.
Jones received a visit from the FBI, trying to urge him to reconsider his plans. He had also been telephoned by US defence secretary Robert Gates.
“In the age of the internet it is something that can cause us profound damage around the world, so we’ve got to take it seriously,” said Mr Obama.
He said the uproar had already made life more difficult for US military personnel serving overseas.
“The idea that we would burn the sacred text of someone else’s religion is contrary to what this nation stands for, contrary to what this nation was founded on,” he said.
“My hope is that this individual prays on it and refrains from doing it.”