Fla. pastor cancels Quran bonfire on Sept. 11

Thursday, September 9, 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The leader of a small Florida church that espouses an anti-Islam philosophy says he is canceling plans to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11.

The Rev. Terry Jones said today he had decided to cancel his protest because the leader of a planned Islamic Center near ground zero had agreed to move its controversial location. Any such agreement was unconfirmed. CNN reported that the developers of the mosque complex had denied the location would be moved.

Jones said yesterday that Americans opposed the mosque being built at the location and that Muslims did not want the Quran burned. He said instead of his plan to burn the books on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11, he would be flying to New York to speak to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf about moving the mosque.

“We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans,” Jones said in a news conference. We would right now ask no one to burn Qurans. We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it.”

Jones said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida told him that officials would guarantee that the mosque would be moved. However, Musri told the Associated Press that what he offered was a meeting among Jones, Rauf and himself to talk about the mosque location.

“I asked him three times, and I have witnesses,” Jones said. “If it's not moved, then I think Islam is a very poor example of religion. I think that would be very pitiful. I do not expect that.”

Musri said no deal has been reached to move the site of the mosque in exchange for Jones' calling off plans to burn Qurans.

Musri is president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. He says he told Jones that he did not believe the mosque should be built near ground zero and would do everything in his power to make sure it is moved.

Musri thanked Jones and his church members “for making the decision today to defuse the situation and bring to a positive end what has become the world over a spectacle that no one would benefit from except extremists and terrorists” who would use it to recruit future radicals.

Jones' plans to burn Islam's holiest text sparked an international outcry. President Barack Obama, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and several Christian leaders had urged Jones to reconsider his plans. They said his actions would endanger U.S. soldiers and provide a strong recruitment tool for Islamic extremists.

Jones' protest also drew criticism and threats from religious and political leaders from across the Muslim world.