Florida pastor suspends Qur'an burning, for now
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:13PM EDT
After a baffling series of events, the pastor of a Florida church has, for now, suspended plans to burn 200 copies of the Islamic holy book on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Rev. Terry Jones, head of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., made the announcement on Thursday following growing pressure over the Qur'an burning.
Generals, world leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama had all urged the pastor to rethink his plans for the protest.
Despite the mounting pressure, Jones had previously refused to back off from his position, saying that he had received much encouragement from the public. Supporters had sent him copies of the Qur'an to burn, he said.
But on Thursday afternoon, Jones stood outside his church alongside the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, Imam Muhammad Musri. Jones announced that Musri told him the site of the New York mosque would be moved if the Qur'an burning did not take place.
The pastor had never before spoken about the New York mosque as a reason for holding the Qur'an protest. But he said that after praying about the decision, he decided that relocating the mosque would be a sign from God not to burn the Qur'ans.
However, after the news conference in Florida, Musri told The Associated Press that no deal had been reached to move the planned New York mosque. He and Jones had only agreed to visit New York to meet with the imam overseeing plans to build a mosque on Saturday, Musri said.
New York's Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf also denied there were any plans to relocate the Islamic centre away from the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in Manhattan.
"I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Qur'ans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones," the statement reads.
"I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."
Those comments prompted Jones to say, later in the day, that Musri had "clearly, clearly lied to us" about plans for the mosque to be relocated, raising questions about whether the Qur'an burning would proceed.
"Given what we are now hearing, we are forced to rethink our decision," Jones said. "So as of right now, we are not canceling the event, but we are suspending it."
Musri defended himself by saying that Jones had "stretched" his words regarding the New York mosque.
To make matters more confusing, celebrity real estate developer Donald Trump made a public offer to buy a major investor in the site of the planned New York mosque.
Trump said that he would be doing so as a U.S. citizen who is concerned that "a very serious, inflammatory, and highly divisive situation" may get worse.
He offered cash plus 25 per cent if the Islamic developers ensure the centre is built at least five blocks from Ground Zero.
But, the developer of the Manhattan location has already received offers worth triple the value of the property, meaning Trump's offer is much less lucrative than others already on the table.
With files from The Associated Press