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Insurgents still using Quran burning furor to raise Afghans' ire

To stoke opposition to US and Afghan troops, insurgents are taking advantage of outrage over the Quran burning threat, says the governor of a strategic Afghan province.

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / September 15, 2010

Afghans shout anti-US slogans at a protest after morning prayers outside a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 15.

Mustafa Quraishi/AP

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Washington

Insurgents are actively trying to use the threat by a Florida preacher to burn Qurans as leverage against US and Afghan troops, according to the governor of what has been up to recently one of Afghanistan's most violent areas.

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Though it is clear to many that the threatened actions of the 50-member church do not “represent the American people,” it nevertheless “outraged and made the Muslims in Afghanistan very angry,” said Mohammad Halim Fidal, governor of Wardak Province.

The province, dubbed the gateway to Kabul, is considered strategically important to the US military.

“These enemies are trying to use this against our government forces,” he added in a briefing with Pentagon reporters Wednesday morning.

In order to counter such insurgent tactics, a new program is now in place to bring moderate Afghan leaders to Jordan for seminars in order to learn “a broader, less radical interpretation of Islam,” Mr. Fidal said.

Some 40 Afghan leaders recently traveled to Jordan to take part in the program, known as the Voices of Moderate Islam, and supported by Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other charity organizations, he added. “This will enable our scholars who went to Jordan,” Fidal explained, “to learn about a culture of coexistence and tolerance” and that “everyone can live in a peaceful environment despite the differences of opinion.”

Though Afghan religious scholars are the traditional agents of change in the country, “the majority of these scholars haven’t gone outside their village,” according to Fidal. “They are very limited in terms of both knowledge and experience. That’s why the enemy is trying to use the burning of the Quran as something that has been done by the Jewish or other forces and then associated this with the fighting against insurgents” in Afghanistan.

Concerns about violence come in advance of Saturday’s parliamentary elections across Afghanistan. Ten polling stations out of the nearly 400 across Wardak will be closed. Officials say that this is a result of logistics and a determination that there were not enough voters in a given area to warrant the station being open.

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