Controversial U.S. Pastor Terry Jones has burned copies of the Koran and a depiction of the prophet Mohammed in protest of imprisonment of Iranian Christian clergyman Youcef Nadarkhani.
According to The Gainesville Sun, Dove World Outreach Center Pastor Terry Jones on Saturday carried out the burning in front of his church in Gainesville, Florida, to demand the release of Youcef Nadarkhani from prison.
AFP reports that about 20 people gathered Saturday on Church property at 5805 NW 37th Street about 5 p.m. for the burning. There were no protesters.The Gainesville Sun reports police officers were stationed across the street from the church.
The Blaze reports that Jones, wearing an “Infidel” T-shirt, burned the copy of the Koran and an image of Mohammad in a portable fire pit on church property. After the book was set on fire, the pastor said: “We take no joy or pleasure in this particular act. We pray that the Muslim community, perhaps through this act or perhaps through the many evangelistic aspects of Christianity and the reaching out to the Muslim community, they would somehow be set free from the deception of Islam, from the deception of Muhammad, from the death and destruction that Islam has caused since its very beginning."
According to AFP, moments after the burning, Gainesville fire department issued the church a citation for violating the city's fire ordinances.
The burning took place in spite of the Pentagon's appeal to Jones to reconsider, saying his action may endanger American soldiers in Afghanistan. The Guardian reports a statement by Pentagon spokesman Commander Bill Speaks, said: “We are aware of Pastor Terry Jones’ threat to burn a Quran, and are monitoring the situation. The last time Pastor Jones burned a Quran, back in March of 2011, more than 16 people died and more than 90 people were injured from the resulting protests. We hope Pastor Jones will take into account the safety and welfare of deployed U.S. military personnel before engaging in such an activity again.”
This is the second time Jones has burned copies of the Koran and images of the Prophet Mohammad. In March 2011, Jones' assistant Pastor Wayne Sapp, burned a copy of the Koran under the supervision of Jones and broadcast the action on the Internet. It incited violent protests in northern Afghanistan, leading to the death of at least 12 people.
Alarabiya reported that Jones had set a Saturday April 28 deadline for the release of the Iranian pastor Nadarkhani. Nadarkhani was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death. Terry Jones is campaigning in support of Nadarkhani through the organization Stand Up America Now.
According to a statement released by Stand Up America Now website: “The time of doing nothing must come to an end. We call citizens around the world to burn Qurans and images of Mohammed publicly if Pastor Youcef is executed and not released! Even the actual thought that someone could possibly be executed, imprisoned, just simply because of what he believes is totally barbaric … Again, another example of the radical element of Islam, and its unbelievable violations of human rights, and freedom of speech."
The Guardian reports that when Jones was asked about the consequences of his action in terms of lives lost, he said: “What happened last time and what could happen this time is not our responsibility. All we did was burn a book. It posed no threat to anyone else, yet riots broke out several thousand miles away – which just proves how extreme Islam is.” Jones said the loss of lives, however, made it difficult to repeat the act. He said "That's why we have been in contact on a daily basis with the Iranian embassy and religious leaders to see if we could get some dialogue going given the severity of what could happen."
According to The Guardian, Maulavi Mohammad Qalamuddin, deputy head of the virtue and vice ministry under the Taliban regime, said: "This person who is planning to burn the holy book in Florida is an ignorant person. He is crazy, like an animal. This man is going to make the Muslim people of Afghanistan emotional... It is the job of the American government to stop him and capture him."
Jamshed Hashimi, a teacher at a private university in Kabul, said: “Islam doesn’t allow us to dishonor the Christian holy book, so it is the job of Christians to respect the holy Quran as well. It is the job of the Americans to stop this person, otherwise the militants, the insurgents will use this opportunity and the people will help them."