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US official apologises to Muslims on Quran desecration
President Barack Obama has already apologised to Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the issue.
Washington: A top Pentagon official has apologised to the Muslims on the desecration of the holy Quran in Afghanistan, as part of the American efforts to calm down tempers among the community members on the "unfortunate" incident at the Bagram air base early this week.
"I come here to apologise on behalf of the Department of Defence for the incident that took place in Afghanistan this week, when American military personnel unknowingly and improperly disposed of Islamic religious materials, including the Holy Quran," Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asia and Pacific Security Affairs Dr Peter Lavoy said at a mosque in the suburban of Washington.
President Barack Obama has already apologised to Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the issue. The incident has sparked fierce anti-US protests in Afghanistan in which at least 23 protesters have been killed so far.
The Pentagon official was invited to speak at the mosque during the Friday prayer sermon by Imam Hagi Magid, director of the Islamic Society of North America, and Haris Tarin, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Lavoy said this is a moment of coming together in a difficult time and under difficult circumstances.
"Even as we were fighting to help the Afghan people secure and govern their own country, we as a military did not meet our obligations to the Muslim community," Lavoy said and thanked the Afghans working at Bagram who brought this to their notice.
"We at the Department of Defence regret and apologise for this incident; we are fully investigating it; we are learning from it; and we are committed to ensuring that such an incident will never happen again," he said.
"ISAF has a long tradition of handling sacred texts with respect and full consideration of customs and rules of the religion in question. In this case, our military neglected out of ignorance long-established correct procedures for handling religious materials," the Pentagon official said.
ISNA president Imam Magid expressed satisfaction on Lavoy s remarks and apology.
"We are pleased with the rapid response from the DoD and the White House and with their strategies to prevent these actions from occurring in the future," he said.
"This is an opportunity for us to move forward from this unfortunate incident and to build new partnerships," he said.
"The people of Afghanistan have the right to be offended over the burning of the Quran. However, in the face of this challenge, the sanctity of human life must be respected above all else," Magid added.
"We must remember that although the burning of the Quran is disconcerting, the Quran can never truly be disposed of or forgotten because millions of Muslims across the world have memorized the Quran and it lives forever in their hearts," he added.
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