A Florida pastor's plan to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 could result in "serious violence" against American troops in Pakistan and Afghanistan and would be "a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda," President Barack Obama said in an interview that aired today on "Good Morning America."
"If he's listening, I just hope he understands that what he's proposing to do is completely contrary to our values … this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance," Obama said. "As a very practical matter, as commander (in) chief of the armed forces of the United States, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan."
In the exclusive one-on-one interview on Wednesday with "GMA" anchor George Stephanopoulos, the president discussed initiatives to boost the flagging economy, tax cuts and the upcoming midterm elections. He also said Terry Jones' actions could boost recruitment of people who would be willing to "blow themselves up" in cities in America or Europe.
Click HERE to read the full transcript of the interview.
Obama said he hoped Jones understood that he would be engaging in "a destructive act."
Jones' plan to burn copies of Islam's most sacred text at his Dove World Outreach Center – a small, non-denominational congregation in Gainesville -- has unleashed a flood of opposition. Protests have been mounted in Afghanistan and in Indonesia, and the FBI has warned that Islamic extremists likely would retaliate.
While the pastor has said he is continuing to pray about the plan, he has shown no indication that he will back down. He also has said he would not be responsible for any deaths that may occur as a result of his church's provocative actions.
The president told Stephanopoulos that he hoped Jones would reconsider.
"He says he's someone who is motivated by his faith," Obama said. "I hope he listens to … those better angels."
Obama's comments are the latest in the growing call from numerous politicians and community and interfaith leaders who've all spoken out in recent days, urging Jones to forgo his controversial plan and its potentially harmful consequences.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has warned that the Koran burning could so inflame the Muslim world that there could be retaliation against American troops and their partners. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, evangelist Franklin Graham and the Vatican are among the other influential voices that have registered opposition to the planned Koran-burning.
On the issue of tax cuts, the president again questioned the Republican Party's push for the extension of tax breaks for the wealthy. House Minority Leader John Boehner has called for a bill that would cut non-security spending to 2008 levels and enact a freeze on tax rates.
Obama wants to let the tax cuts expire for families earning more than $250,000 a year, a move the GOP argues will hamper the country's fragile economic recovery.
In a political speech Wednesday in Cleveland, Obama proposed new incentives for businesses and assailed Republicans for impeding his efforts and for wanting to revert to "the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place."