Jones told imam he had never read Koran
Published 11/09/2010 | 05:00
Until a year ago, Terry Jones wasn't a public figure in Gainesville, Florida, or anywhere else.
Then seven children who attend the Dove World Outreach Centre, where Jones is senior pastor, went to school wearing white T-shirts with red lettering saying, "Islam Is Of The Devil".
The Alachua County School District banned what it deemed "offensive" clothing, and the students' parents sued. The publicity seemed to encourage the 58-year-old pastor, said Eddie Gilley, director of Baptist Collegiate Ministries in Gainesville.
"It's like the little boy in the grocery store who throws a tantrum," Mr Gilley said. "He only does it again if you pay attention."
By Thursday, Mr Jones -- who wrote a book titled 'Islam Is Of The Devil' and sells T-shirts and coffee mugs with the slogan on the church website -- had commanded enough of it to warrant a telephone call from Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, who asked the minister to call off plans to set fire to copies of the Koran today, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
At a press conference yesterday morning, Mr Jones said he had cancelled what he had advertised as International Burn a Koran Day, repeating comments he had made on Thursday after meeting with Muhammad Musri, an imam and president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, based in Orlando.
At a televised news conference on the front lawn of Dove World Outreach on Thursday, Mr Jones had said he made the decision after he received "a sign from God" in the form of an assurance from Mr Musri that the Islamic centre to be established near the World Trade Centre site in New York would be relocated.
Mr Musri, who appeared with Mr Jones at the Thursday news conference, said there was no agreement to move the Park51 centre, only a plan to discuss the possibility with the owner.
Mr Musri, who first visited Mr Jones on Wednesday, described him as "sincere but misguided". Mr Musri said the pastor didn't appear happy to see him at first.
"He asked me if I was armed and planned to hurt him and I said no, I come in peace," Mr Musri said. "He is not a charismatic or sophisticated man, but he is very loud."
Mr Jones, who told him he had never read the Koran, listened as the imam told him the September 11 terrorists weren't inspired by Islamic writings.