- (Photo: AP Photo / Phil Sandlin)
The Florida preacher who planned to burn copies of Islam’s sacred text this weekend said Thursday that his church has agreed to cancel the event after striking a deal with the imam behind the proposed Islamic center and mosque in New York City.
Pastor Terry Jones told reporters that he and members of his church, Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, were asked what it would take to call off Saturday’s “International Burn A Quran Day.”
And after much thought and prayer, they decided they would consider it “a sign from God” to cancel the burning if the group behind the proposed Islamic center and mosque near the World Trade Center site were to cancel or move its facility to another location.
“The American people do not want the mosque there. And of course Moslems do not want us to burn the Quran,” Jones said Thursday.
Therefore, as the imam behind Park51 reportedly agreed to move the mosque, Jones said Dove World Outreach Center agreed to cancel their event on Saturday.
Furthermore, Jones said his church is now against any other group that intends to burn Qurans.
"We would right now ask no one to burn Qurans," the preacher said during Thursday's press conference. "We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it."
While the “guarantee” from the office of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf could not be immediately verified, some media outlets reported that Jones and the leader of the effort had spoken earlier Thursday.
Imam Muhammad Musri, the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, who mediated communication between Jones and Rauf, also confirmed that “a commitment” was made, though that commitment was for a meeting to discuss and come to a decision on the relocating of the mosque.
“We are committed to dissolving the situation here and there,” Musri said at Thursday’s press conference.
Since the announcement of “International Burn A Quran Day” back in July, countless individuals around the world have called upon Jones to cancel the event, including government officials, Christians leaders across the denominational spectrum, and most recently President Obama, who said earlier in the day that he hopes Jones "listens to those better angels and understands that this is a destructive act that he's engaging in."
Though Jones told USA Today he hadn't been contacted directly by the White House, State Department or Pentagon, the Florida pastor said if such a call came, "That would cause us to definitely think it over."
Jones also said his church was taking the concerns of Gen. David Petraeus "very seriously,” though he still vowed to move forward even after hearing remarks from the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan.
With just two days before the scheduled burning, Jones' announcement comes as a relief to many as the plans alone had already incited Muslim protests in various parts of the world.
And, as Musri noted during the press conference, the decision to cancel the burning comes at an opportune time as it was made just hours before Muslims around the world begin marking the end of their holy month of Ramadan.
“Hundreds of millions of people would be listening to sermons. And the messages that would have dominated the sermons would have been the burning of the Quran in the United States,” Musri noted.
“I want to thank him (Pastor Jones) and his church members and his leadership for making the decision today to diffuse the situation and bring to a positive end what has become … a spectacle that no one would benefit from except extremists and terrorists who would have used this to recruit even more young impressionable people to become future radicals,” Musri added.
That said, Musri and Jones both confirmed their intention to fly to New York City on Saturday to meet with Rauf.
Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks left nearly 3,000 dead and over 6,000 injured.