By Calvin Palmer
A Florida pastor is planning to burn copies of the Koran as a protest against the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York.
Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville plans to burn Islam’s Holy Book on the ninth anniversary of the attacks.
The 58-year-old minister, with a following of some 50 people, announced in July that he would stage “International Burn a Quran Day”, since when supporters from across the United States have been mailing copies of the Koran to be burned.
The fire department has denied Jones a required burn permit but he says he is going ahead with his event. He said lawyers have told him his right to burn the Koran is protected by the First Amendment.
Gen David Petraeus has warned that “images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley echoed that, calling the planned protest “un-American” and saying it does not represent the views of most people in the U.S.
“While it may well be within someone’s rights to take this action, we hope cooler heads will prevail,” Crowley said.
The interfaith group of evangelical, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim leaders meeting in Washington today condemned Jones’ plan as a violation of American values and the Bible.
“This is not the America that we all have grown to love and care about,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “We have to stand up for our Muslim brothers and sisters and say, “This is not OK.'”
Jones said he is still praying about his decision but wonders how many times the U.S. can back down.
“We think it’s time to turn the tables, and instead of possibly blaming us for what could happen, we put the blame where it belongs — on the people who would do it,” he said. “And maybe instead of addressing us, we should address radical Islam and send a very clear warning that they are not to retaliate in any form.”
Jones, who runs the small, evangelical Christian church with an anti-Islam philosophy, says he has received more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a .40-caliber pistol strapped to his hip.
The Dove World Outreach Center is independent of any denomination but follows the Pentecostal tradition, which teaches that the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in the modern day.
Pentecostals often view themselves as engaged in spiritual warfare against satanic forces.
In Gainesville, home of the University of Florida, Jones is seen as a fringe character not worthy of the attention he is attracting.
But protests are being planned. Two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples and Muslim organizations in Gainesville have mobilized to plan inclusive events — some will read from the Koran at their own weekend services — to counter Jones’s planned protest.
A student group is also organizing a protest across the street from the church on Saturday.
Gainesville Police Department spokesperson said there will be a “heightened police presence” throughout the city and county that day, which is also a UF football game day.
Clearly what we have here is someone seeking their 15 minutes of fame. Jones at 58 is likely not getting much in the way of sex these days, the rest of the world treats him like a joke and the planned burning of the Koran is his way of showing the world that he still counts.
The solution to the problem is quite easy if indeed Jones does go ahead. Gainesville Fire Department turns up to the event in the interests of safety, no doubt the church and neighboring buildings are wooden, so a fire of any description would constitute a potential danger.
As Jones appears, the fire department by “mistake” turns on the hoses, not only drenching him and his crackpot followers but rendering the copies of the Koran incapable of being set alight.
On a more serious not, the First Amendment and its guarantee of free speech is laudable provided that the speech involved stays within the bounds of legality. I would think that Jones forfeits his right to free speech in that the content of his speech is an incitement to religious and racial hatred.
Does a civilized society allow individuals the right to incite hatred? Okay, America’s track record suggests that it does but it is never too late to start making amends and join the rest of the civilized world in the 21st Century.
I also wonder why these so-called Christians, by definition followers of Jesus Christ and his teachings, which are contained in the New Testament of the Bible, perpetually dwell in, and take as divine truth, the utter garbage contained in the Old Testament. Is it because peace, love and charity have no place in their intolerant and hateful agenda?
[Based on a report in The Gainesville Sun.]