[A-List] Pastor, imam at odds over Quran-burning deal
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Fri Sep 10 07:40:59 MDT 2010
September 10, 2010 http://detnews.com/article/20100910/NATION/9100404
Pastor, imam at odds over Quran-burning deal
Gainesville, Fla.-- Will he or won't he? Negotiations between a local
Muslim cleric and the leader of a tiny Florida church who had
threatened to publicly burn copies of Islam's holy text left the
heated debate in a state of confusion with the ninth anniversary of
the 9/11 terrorist attacks a day away.
The Rev. Terry Jones said Thursday he would call off the planned
burning of Qurans based on a deal negotiated with the president of the
Islamic Society of Central Florida that the location of a mosque
planned near ground zero in New York would be changed.
But Imam Muhammad Musri said he was clear on Thursday when he told
Jones that he could only set up a meeting with planners of the New
York City mosque, whose leader said he had spoken to neither the
pastor nor Musri. Jones responded by opening the door, if only a
crack, that he would go forward with his plan on Saturday.
"We are just really shocked," Jones said of Musri. "He clearly,
clearly lied to us."
For U.S. political leaders and Muslims around the world who have been
outraged by Jones' antics, the on-again, off-again threat bred even
more angst and frustration.
Cleric Rusli Hasbi told 1,000 worshippers attending Friday morning
prayers in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, that
whether or not he burns the Quran, Jones had already "hurt the heart
of the Muslim world."
"If he'd gone through with it, it would have been tantamount to war,"
the cleric said in the coastal town of Lhokseumawe. "A war that would
have rallied Muslims all over the world."
Muslims consider the book the sacred word of God and insist it be
treated with the utmost respect.
In Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of U.S. troops are in harm's
way, President Hamid Karzai said he heard Jones had perhaps abandoned
his Quran-burning plan.
"The holy book is implanted in the hearts and minds of all the
Muslims," Karzai said. "Humiliation of the holy book represents the
humiliation of our people. I hope that this decision will be stopped
and should never have been considered."
Jones announced earlier Thursday -- with Musri at his side -- that
they had a bargain and that he would call off the Quran-burning. Later
he accused Musri of lying and said the burning was only suspended, not
Musri, countered that Jones wasn't confused or misled and that "after
we stepped out in front of the cameras, he stretched my words" about
the agreement. The imam in charge of the New York Islamic center and
mosque project also quickly denied any deal was made.
Musri said Jones had instead caved into the firestorm of criticism
from around the world and that his announcement might have been a ploy
to try to force Muslim leaders' hand on the Islamic center.
Jones said later that he expected Musri to keep his word and "the imam
in New York to back up one of his own men." Musri said he still plans
to go ahead with the meeting Saturday.
In New York, the Islamic center project leader, Imam Feisal Abdul
Rauf, said in a statement that he was glad Jones had backed down but
that he had spoken to neither the pastor nor Musri.
"We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we
going to barter," Rauf said. "We are here to extend our hands to build
peace and harmony."
Opponents argue it is insensitive to families and memories of Sept. 11
victims to build a mosque so close to where Islamic extremists flew
planes into the World Trade Center and killed nearly 2,800 people.
Proponents say the project reflects religious freedom and diversity
and that hatred of Muslims is fueling the opposition.
Moving the mosque is not why Jones canceled his threat, Musri said.
Instead, he relented under the pressure from political and religious
leaders of all faiths worldwide to halt what President Barack Obama
called a "stunt." Musri said Jones told him the burning "would
endanger the troops overseas, Americans traveling abroad and others
around the world."
"That was the real motivation for calling it off," Musri said.
Jones had never invoked the mosque controversy as a reason for his
planned protest at his Dove World Outreach Center. Instead, he cited
his belief that the Quran is evil because it espouses something other
than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among
Obama urged Jones to listen to "those better angels," saying that
besides endangering lives, it would give Islamic terrorists a
recruiting tool. Defense Secretary Robert Gates took the extraordinary
step of calling Jones personally.
Jones' church, which has about 50 members, is independent of any
denomination. It follows the Pentecostal tradition, which teaches that
the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in the modern day.
News of the cancellation also was welcomed by Jones' neighbors in
Gainesville, a city of 125,000 anchored by the sprawling University of
Florida campus. At least two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples
and Muslim organizations in the city had mobilized to plan inclusive
events, including Quran readings at services, as a counterpoint to
Jones said at the news conference that he prayed about the decision
and concluded that if the mosque was moved, it would be a sign from
God to call off the Quran burning.
"We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans," Jones
said. "We would right now ask no one to burn Qurans. We are absolutely
strong on that. It is not the time to do it."
Despite Jones' words, in the Gaza Strip, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail
Haniyeh said to a crowd of tens of thousands of Muslim faithful that
they had come "to respond to this criminal, this liar, this crazy
priest who reflects a crazy Western attitude toward Islam and the
"We came to say, the Quran is our constitution, we are committed to
God and his holy book," he said to those holding the texts in their
hands at a stadium in the northern town of Beit Lahiya. "God willing,
should they try to carry out their crime against the Quran, God will
tear their state apart and they will become God's lesson to anyone who
tries to desecrate the holy book."
Part of the pressure exerted on Jones came from Gates, who briefly
spoke to the pastor before his first announcement to call it off.
Gates expressed "his grave concern that going forward with this Quran
burning would put the lives of our forces at risk, especially in Iraq
and Afghanistan," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
Morrell said earlier that the decision to issue a personal appeal was
not easy because it could provoke other extremists "who, all they
want, is a call from so-and-so." Earlier, Jones had said if he was
contacted by the White House that he might change his mind. After
Gates' call to Jones, Morrell said the secretary's "fundamental
baseline attitude about this is that if that phone call could save the
life of one man or woman in uniform it was a call worth placing."
Associated Press Writers Ayi Jufridar in Lhokseumawe, Indonesia;
Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City; Robert Reid in Kabul; Anne Flaherty and
Lolita C. Baldor in Washington; and AP Legal Affairs Writer Curt
Anderson in Miami contributed to this report
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