Rev. Terry Jones, the pastor of a small non-denominational congregation in Gainesville, Florida has been threatening to burn 200 copies of the Koran, the Islamic holy book tomorrow, the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. Jones, the author of a book entitled Islam is of the Devil and the Dove World Outreach Center intended to create a bonfire on the church property.
Islamics and Christians alike are condemning the burning, along with world leaders and US generals who say this act could endanger US troops.
Yesterday, under growing pressure, Jones announced that he was calling off plans and implied that he had made a deal with the organizers of the construction of an Islamic centre near Ground Zero to agree to move the location if the Koran burning was cancelled. However, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf denied having spoken to Jones, stating, "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."Today, the church's two websites were taken down by the web-hosting company Rackspace, on the grounds that the church has violated the terms of service with regard to a clause that forbids content that is "excessively violent, incites violence, threatens violence, or contains harassing content or hate speech; and creates a risk to a person's safety or health, creates a risk to public safety or health, compromises national security, or interferes with a investigation by law enforcement." Copies of Pastor Jones' book were available for order through the web site. To date, the church's Facebook page (Facebook account needed to view page) "International Burn A Koran Day" is still available along with many other group pages condemning the act.
CBS News and a number of other investigative reporters are now looking into the financial state of the church, mortgages, and the ebay store which is run out of church buildings, perhaps bringing more attention to the 50-member congregation and their pastor than was expected.
The American Library Association plans to read publicly from the Koran -- a reaction to the planned book burning -- from the steps of their headquarters in Chicago tomorrow at 1 p.m. Banned Books Week will launch on September 25 with readings from the Qur’an.
Update: While the pastor ended up not burning the Koran, a number of book burners around the world took up his cause. Pastor Terry Jones was also charged for the extra policing services needed because of his threat.