NYC Mayor's Opinion A 180 From White House, Petraeus

NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — The White House was weighing in on a new 9/11 controversy on Tuesday.

A Florida minister is planning to mark the day by burning the Quran.

It’s a move that is sparking worldwide outrage and concerns that it will endanger American troops.

CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reports New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a somewhat unpopular opinion on Tuesday afternoon.

There are dire warnings that U.S. troops in Afghanistan could be put in danger, but Gainesville, Fla., pastor Terry Jones, says his plan for “burn a Quran day’ is an appropriate way for his congregations to recall the events of 9/11.

“We realize that this action will probably offend Muslims, just like I am offended when they burn the bible or the American flag. But we have tried to make it very clear in America that we have freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” Jones said.

The pastor’s plans have already sparked protests outside a Kabul mosque where irate Muslims chanted “death to America.” For Muslims the Quran is considered the word of God and should be treated with respect.

General David Petraeus, the top American general in Afghanistan, said he’s worried the move could generate attacks on American soldiers.

“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,” Petraeus said.

The White House agreed.

“It puts our troops in harm’s way. And obviously any type of activity like that would be — that puts our troops in harm’s way — would be of concern to the administration,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also weighed in on the controversy calling the church’s Quran burning threat a “disrespectful, disgraceful act.”

In Washington Tuesday, a broad coalition of religious leaders from evangelical, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim organizations called Jones’ plan a violation of American values.

But Mayor Bloomberg stood behind the pastor’s right to do whatever he wants on 9/11.

“The first amendment protects everybody and you can’t say that we’re going to apply the first amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement,” Bloomberg said.

Most the people who talked to 1010 WINS reporter Juliet Papa thought the pastor’s idea of a Quran burning day was a bad idea.

“We need to move past this. This is democracy. I’m not a Muslim, but I respect their religion,” one man said.

Others agreed with Petraeus.

“They are putting the troops in danger [that are] still over there in Afghanistan. I just think [Pastor Jones] got to rethink what he’s doing and humble his self a little bit,” another New Yorker told Papa.

“It’s a free country. They want to do something. Someone else wants to do something. It goes both ways,” another observer said.

The pastor said it’s not about building mosques but about radical extremists, “that we believe is much larger. All of our politicians want us to believe.”

Pastor Jones has received more than 100 death threats and he said he has started wearing a .40 caliber pistol strapped to his hip.

However, he is leaving the door ajar to a change of heart, saying he is still praying about the decision.

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