LONDON (Reuters) - British Muslim activists plan to burn the U.S. flag outside the U.S. embassy on September 11 to voice anger at plan by a U.S. Christian pastor to burn copies of the Koran the same day, a hardline Islamist said on Thursday.
Anjem Choudary added in remarks to Reuters he expected like-minded groups to stage flag burnings in the United States, Belgium, Ireland, Lebanon and Indonesia to highlight what he called the U.S. occupation of Muslim lands.
Pastor Terry Jones, leader of a tiny Protestant church in Gainesville, Florida, which campaigns against what it calls “radical Islam,” is facing calls from U.S. government, military and religious leaders, and from abroad, to cancel plans to publicly burn Islam’s holy book.
The planned Koran-burning on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks has attracted worldwide condemnation and already set off protests in Afghanistan and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Choudary, a British activist of Pakistani ancestry accused by critics of radicalizing young Muslims with anti-Western rhetoric, said a time for the London burning had not been fixed. An Islamist website, RevolutionMuslim.com, said the London event would take place at 1 p.m. local time (1200 GMT).
A police spokesman declined immediate comment.
Choudary said: “We have called for the people to burn the American flag so that instead of being humiliated or being intimidated they can make this day a day to remember the atrocities being committed in Muslim lands and to expose the aggressor.”
The date of the 2001 attacks on U.S. cities had become symbolic of “the conflict between Islam and the enemy of Muslims, nowadays represented by the American regime, and manifest in their occupation of Muslim lands,” Choudary said.
Choudary said no Muslim would ever burn a Bible or Judaism’s holy book, the Torah, as they believed these contained the word of God. The flag, in contrast, was an appropriate target.
Choudary is the former leader of an Islamist group, Islam4UK, that was banned in January 2010 counter-terrorism laws after it provoked public anger with a plan to march through a town where British troops killed in Afghanistan are honored.
Reporting by William Maclean, Editing by Steve Addison