U.S. pastor unbowed, vows new anti-Islam protest
A militant fundamentalist Christian preacher in Florida whose burning of a Koran triggered deadly riots in Afghanistan is unrepentant and defiantly vows to lead an anti-Islam protest outside the biggest mosque in the United States. The planned demonstration could further inflame tensions over the Koran burning, which led to two days of protests in Afghanistan that included the killings of U.N. staff and stoked anti-Western sentiment in parts of the Muslim world.
“Our aim is to make an awareness of the radical element of Islam,” Pastor Terry Jones told Reuters in an interview on Saturdayat the church he leads in the college town of Gainesville, Florida. A picture of the burning Koran was on his computer screen. “Obviously it is terrible any time people are murdered or killed. I think that on the other hand, it shows the radical element of Islam.”
Jones, a former hotel manager turned pastor who claims the Koran incites violence, said he will go ahead with a protest on April 22 in front of the largest mosque in the United States, located in Dearborn, Michigan.
President Barack Obama denounced the act of burning a Koran but did not mention Jones by name. “The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House on Saturday. “However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity.”
Jones provoked an international outcry last year over his plan to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. He backed down after pleas from the U.S. government and other world officials, but then presided over a March 20 mock trial of the Koran that included a torching of the book. It barely drew media attention but Internet footage reverberated across the Muslim world.