Controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones is defending himself after his promotion of an anti-Islam film deemed offensive by some Muslims prompted protesters to attack U.S. embassies in Cairo, Egypt and in Benghazi, Libya on Tuesday.
"The fact that angry protesters climbed the wall at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, today, ripped down the American flag and tore it apart further indicates the lack of respect that Islam has for any other religion, any other flag, any freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. It further illustrates that they have no tolerance for anything outside of Mohammad," Jones said in a statement shared Wednesday with The Christian Post.
"Islam is a religion that is totally incompatible with Western free society. It is a religion that cannot be criticized because of their extreme fear and knowing that if the religion of Islam is criticized and examined it will be revealed for what it is, a total deception," he added.
Over 2,000 Muslim protesters reacted violently to the film, entitled "Innocence of Muslims," which was previewed online by Jones on Sept. 11 as a part of his annual "International Judge Mohammed Day." The film was written and directed by Israeli-American filmmaker San Bacile, who is based in San Diego, Calif., and is reportedly in hiding. Bacile, 52, told the Wall Street Journal that "Islam is a cancer."
"Innocence of Muslims," which allegedly insults the prophet Muhammad, caused angry protesters to storm the U.S. embassies in Cairo and Benghazi. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed at the Benghazi Embassy as a result of a firebomb.
U.S. political leaders and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo have issued statements reacting to the attacks and the film.
"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions," the consulate has stated.
The statement drew criticism from GOP candidate Mitt Romney, who told reporters in a press conference Wednesday morning that the U.S. Embassy at Cairo's statement was "akin to [an] apology'' and a ''severe miscalculation.''
"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt," the Republican presidential candidate said in an earlier statement released Tuesday evening.
"It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks," Romney added.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also issued a statement saying that the "inflammatory material posted on the Internet" does not justify "violent acts of this kind."
President Barack Obama also spoke to reporters Wednesday morning, strongly condemning the killing of Ambassador Stevens and referring to the protests as an "outrageous attack."
Jones, a self-proclaimed Christian, is the senior pastor of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla. He has made headlines numerous times in the past by publicly burning the Quran, which lead to riots in the Middle East that resulted in the deaths of 10 U.N. staffers in 2011.
Although many question Jones' promotion of the "Innocence of Islam" film in light of his public acts against Islam, the Quran, and the prophet Muhammad, others have defended his right to freedom of speech.
Some, however, have suggested that Jones should be legally prosecuted for the death of Ambassador Stevens, in spite of First Amendment freedoms.
American political commentator Mike Barnicle suggested on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Justice prosecute Pastor Jones for the death of Ambassador Stevens.
"It might be time for the Department of Justice to start viewing his role as an accessory before or after the fact," Barnicle said.
Others have argued that the Egyptians and Libyans who chose to attack the embassies make up a small portion of radicals and do not represent the sentiment of all Muslims in those countries, just as Jones represents only a small faction of Christians and should not be taken seriously.
"Sad that, for some, Pastor Terry Jones represents America and mobs in Benghazi and Cairo represent Libya and Egypt," tweeted Ravi Somaiya, a journalist at the New York Times' London bureau.
Regardless of the debate surrounding free speech rights, it is clear that the "Innocence of Muslims" film has upset Muslims in the Middle East.
A report from Reuters indicates that Afghanistan is banning the video viewing website YouTube so the "offensive video about [the] prophet Muhammad" cannot be viewed.
Jones' telephone at the Dove Outreach Center had been disconnected as of Wednesday. Posts published Tuesday on his "Stand Up American" website invited visitors to watch a live stream of the "trial and execution of the prophet Muhammad," whom he also blamed for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.