Pastor puts Quran-burning on hold, eyes NY mosque deal

Published: September 10, 2010
Dove World Outreach Center pastor Terry Jones (L) shakes hands with Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida in Orlando, after a joint press conference on September 9, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. PHOTO: AFP

Dove World Outreach Center pastor Terry Jones (L) shakes hands with Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida in Orlando, after a joint press conference on September 9, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. PHOTO: AFP

GAINESVILLE: A Florida pastor put on hold Thursday plans to burn hundreds of Qurans and said he would cancel the event if a controversial mosque project near Ground Zero in New York is relocated.

In a day of high-stakes religious brinkmanship, radical evangelist Terry Jones at first announced he had cancelled Saturday’s ceremony, which world leaders fear could ignite a fierce Muslim backlash around the globe. But when his claims of a deal over a proposed Islamic cultural center in New York dissolved in acrimony, he threatened to go ahead with the incendiary ceremony to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“I will be flying up there on Saturday to meet with the imam at the Ground Zero mosque,” Jones said initially. “The American people do not want the mosque there, and, of course, Muslims do not want us to burn the Quran.”

But the imam leading the New York project quickly denied any agreement to move the planned mosque, which is slated for a building two and half blocks from the site of former World Trade Center which was struck by 9/11 hijackers. “I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Qurans,” Feisal Abdul Rauf said in a statement to CNN, but added: “We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter.”

Jones, head of the tiny Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, has threatened an international crisis with his promise to immolate the Muslim holy book on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Concern is so high that US Defense Secretary Robert Gates put in a personal phone call to Jones to try and get him to change him mind, warning that the Quran burning would put US soldiers’ lives at risk. This rare decision by President Barack Obama’s administration to cede to Jones’s demand for direct contact followed growing worries of a disaster for US interests worldwide.

The State Department warned citizens of “the potential for anti-US demonstrations in many countries… some of which may turn violent.” Global police agency Interpol predicted “tragic consequences,” with experts fearing riots in Muslim countries similar to those in response to the 2005 publication of cartoons blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).

Initial relief at Jones’s apparent retreat turned to dismay when he renewed his threat to go ahead with the ceremony and the supposed deal with Rauf unraveled.

Orlando-based imam Mohammed Musri, who played the crucial role of go-between in Saturday’s proceedings, said he had made it abundantly clear to Jones he could provide no assurances about the mosque project. “What we agreed is, we had a commitment from the office of the imam in New York to set up a meeting and to invite pastor Jones to present this proposal,” Musri told CNN. “We did not have an agreement from them, from the imam himself or anyone in his office, that the project will be moved or canceled in New York,” he said. “But when we stepped out in front of the cameras, he stretched that to say that I gave him a commitment or assurances, or as he puts it, guarantees, that that would happen. I did not. I have no control over the project in New York.”

Rauf, a cleric who travels the world on behalf of the State Department to improve US-Muslim relations, says the center — two blocks from Ground Zero — would be used to promote inter-faith peace. But the plan has become a major controversy ahead of midterm Congressional elections on November 2.

More radical opponents accuse the site of amounting to a monument honouring the terrorists who carried out the September 11 attacks.

Jones had cast himself as having single-handedly resolved the standoff thanks to his threat to desecrate the Quran.

“The imam has agreed to move the mosque. We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday, and on Saturday I will be flying up there to meet with him.”

Later, once the organisers denied any bargain, Jones, expressing disappointment and shock that Musri had perhaps lied to him, resurrected the specter of the Quran-burning if no deal is done. “We would be forced to rethink our decision, because we cancelled it based upon his (Musri’s) word.”

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Reader Comments (10)

  • sid
    Sep 10, 2010 - 10:08AM

    this is comical to see, such childish and indifferent attitude. this pastor is governed by US laws. the government rather than talking to him should take legal action against him, this is not about freedom of speech. this is about this man inciting unrest and interfaith disharmony. if he does go ahead and go through with his plan, god knows what will happen. one man without a brain in his skull is headline news because one day he stands up and decides to burn the holy book. i believe he must actually be thinking that he has come up with a brilliant idea to deal with muslims building a cultural centre/ mosque in NY. this reaction by the US ppl goes to show there intolerance as well as the fact that they believe that 9/11 was committed not by a few misguided radical ppl with ideas absolutely opposite to the teachings of islam but by muslims as a whole. it is just sad, very sad. Recommend

  • Imran
    Sep 10, 2010 - 10:42AM

    The Headline is All Wrong. As of right now he says he is “Rethinking” of doing it meaning he is back to Square One. The Fool is just getting his 15-Minutes of fame, if this whole drama was about the Park 51 (Ground Zero) Center then where was he months before or even last night? I tell you he is being used by the Republicans and the people who dont want the Park 51 Center built so that the Imam in New York will move too a New location. But as of right now he says he is going ahead with the act on saturday because the Imam in his local community according to terry jones has lied too him about moving the New York Mosque Location. When the Imam of Central Florida has nothing to do and has no power over the Cordoba Center in New York. Recommend

  • Asad Hasnain
    Sep 10, 2010 - 11:46AM

    GOD! cant imagine the bias and the hard-line approach of american people and the media even.
    Look how the picture is taken.. it appears from this view that the pastor is better of the imam, he is almost ready to ride on him.. and the Imam .. so much ashamed and composed within..
    may be asking for some help.. OMG.. thats there talent to make a simple thing look 180 degrees different! Recommend

  • Tahir
    Sep 10, 2010 - 12:03PM

    Doesnt make sense. How cant he get away with this ? Must be some law against this stuff.

    Perhaps if we had 1 lawyer and 1 smart person for every 1000 protestors, perhaps we would be much better off making an example of this and preventing this next time rather than giving them free publicity for their insane actions (each time anything like this happens) by taking this up in the relevant forum.If people start burning each other’s religious texts, then it will lead to anarchy.

    The US government more than anybody realizes that this would hurt their interests more than anything and will perhaps prevent this eventually. However it seems it is making maximum mileage out this (by acting as a silent, powerless, stakeless spectator) to build sentiment against the ground zero mosque. Recommend

  • Adeel Ahmed
    Sep 10, 2010 - 12:22PM

    There is a US law that we cant question Holocaust, but this is fine?

    Wow… talk about double standards!Recommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Sep 10, 2010 - 12:28PM

    The entire fuss was to relocate the site of Islamic Centre/Mosque from Ground Zero.

    Though US Government preach that every one in the world (including the territorial limits of US) is free to practice his or her own faith, believe and religion but the Americans could not tolerate the announcement of US President Obama to construct Islamic Centre/Mosque at Ground Zero to bring the believers of two faiths together.

    This shows how Muslims in US are facing the narrow minded Americans in the US. Recommend

  • Kashif Hasan
    Sep 10, 2010 - 12:34PM

    It would be unjustified to directly accuse US Government but its policies led the situation at this spot. actually Obama’s Government seems bit innocent and is reaping the crop which was sawn by Bush regime. At the fall of twin towers, Muslims were alleged for that act of terrorism and lebeled as a worldwide terrorist nation, now Obama and his company trying to promote inter faith harmony but facing trouble in their goals.

    It is not first threat to desecrate the Holy Quran, If you see 2 years back, a renegade pastor and his tiny flock set fire to a Quran on a street corner and made sure to capture it on film. But they were ignored. In that stunt members of the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kan., an almost universally condemned group of fundamentalists were involve. Who also protest at military funerals.

    I think, if US nationals are not agree to let us build any Mosque on Ground Zero, simply drop the plan and assure them Islam is religion of Peace not of riot, it doesn’t allow its follower to offer pray at any disputed place. We can win ones heart with love not by the mean of hate, dispute or aggression. It is lesson of our beloved religion and we all proud on being follower of Islam, which tells us to respect other and all belongings of them, even their books,nobel figures and ancestors too.Recommend

  • Sep 10, 2010 - 1:29PM

    Good show by Pastor, negotiation is the only way to resolve issues. I hope both the parties will respect eachother’s sentiments. If Muslims really want to promote interfaith harmony(as they claim) they should propose a church construction along with mosque.Recommend

  • KPMG
    Sep 10, 2010 - 5:25PM

    Wow a log of ignorance in these comments:

    @Adeel Ahmed

    “There is a US law that we cant question Holocaust, but this is fine?
    Wow… talk about double standards!”

    There is NO US law that says you cannot question the Holocaust. People do it all time (e.g. Neo-Nazis, right wingers). Only in a few European countries is it illegal.


    “the government rather than talking to him should take legal action against him, this is not about freedom of speech. this is about this man inciting unrest and interfaith disharmony”

    Freedom of Speech under the US constitution applies even if its offensive for some. People have burned Bibles and the American flag and it is still deemed protected speech. The pastor maybe doing something disgusting but he is not telling anyone to become violent, they are doing that on their own.Recommend

  • Laura
    Sep 12, 2010 - 7:53PM

    Jones is a bully, bigot, religiously blinded, or should I just say a narcissist who loves to hear his own voice/ideals and misses what really important. Doesn’t he see the stupidity of burning the Quaran (or any other holly book for that matter)? Doesn’t he see past his nose and at the larger picture? Walking around blindly shouting from the roof tops that this idea of burning the Quaran is a good thing.

    Burning things doesn’t solve anything or stand to change minds of what is right.

    What needs to be “burned” are the single sided ideals that cause bigger problems.

    The Mosque is not being build ON ground zero–it’s a couple of blocks away–What’s the big deal? Is there an unwritten/written law stating that anything muslim cannot be placed within a certain radius of this memorial site?

    What Jones is doing is no different than what other religious extremists have/are doing….Recommend

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