Pastor 'suspends' 9/11 Koran burning
Updated on 10 September 2010
The pastor who planned to burn copies of the Koran is reconsidering his decision to call off the protest amid a row over claims a proposed New York mosque would be moved away from the site of the 9/11 attacks.
The radical Christian pastor - who leads a congregation of 50 - said his "international burn a Koran day", set to coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11, was suspended but not cancelled.
Pastor Terry Jones agreed to cancel the book-burning after he claimed he was promised that a controversial proposed Islamic cultural centre in New York would be moved away from the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Later outside his church in Gainesville, Florida, Mr Jones claimed he was "lied to" after Imam
Muhammad Musri, the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, and the leader of the New York mosque said there was no such deal.
Mr Musri, who appeared with the pastor at the church yesterday, said there was only an agreement for him and Mr Jones to travel to New York to meet the imam overseeing plans to build the mosque.
"I told the pastor that I personally believe the mosque should not be there, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it is moved," he said.
"But there is not any offer from there [New York] that it will be moved. All we have agreed to is a meeting, and I think we would all like to see a peaceful resolution."
In response, Mr Jones, leader of the Dove World Outreach Centre, said he was now putting the protest on hold instead of cancelling it.
"Given what we are now hearing, we are forced to rethink our decision," he said. "So as of right now, we are not cancelling the event, but we are suspending it."
International outrage has been growing since the pastor's plans came to light last week. Political and religious leaders have fiercely condemned the stunt and Mr Jones has reportedly received over 100 death threats.
If the burning goes ahead on Saturday it will coincide with Muslim holy festival of Eid al-Fitr, which marks an end to Ramadan.
Mr Jones received a call from US Defence Secretary Robert Gates yesterday warning his that his actions would put the lives of American soldiers at risk.
President Obama also warned that the event could prove a recruitment drive for al-Qaida and said it could endanger US troops.
Thousands of Afghans took to the streets in the northeast of the country today to protest against the burning. An official in Badakhshan province estimated that 10,000 people joined the demonstration - thought to be the largest since the Florida church planned the event.
"You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or European cities," he said.
Yesterday former prime minister, Tony Blair, exclusively told Channel 4 News that the event was not representative of the Western world.
He told Political Editor Gary Gibbon: "This will undoubtedly be used by people who want to exploit these issues to say 'this shows what the West thinks of Islam; what Christians think of Muslims', and of course it's completely wrong, but this is why it's such a stupid and disgraceful and disrespectful thing to do.
"There is fragility and what is important is for Muslims to hear from people like me and to know that the pastor does not represent us any more than extremists represent the truth about Islam.
"There are extremes and people who act in an extreme manner in every religious faith, but it doesn't make them represent the faith."
Foreign Secretary William Hague was among those who condemned Mr Jones, describing his plan as "selfish and provocative in the extreme".
Interpol has warned governments worldwide that Mr Jones's plans to burn the Koran would increase the risk of terror attacks.
The White House, the Vatican, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus all urged an end to the protest.
The prime minister's spokesman said he "strongly opposed" any attempt to offend members of a religious group and Commons Leader Sir George Young was cheered by MPs as he described the pastor as a "stupid bigot".