Pressure failing to sway preacher set on Quran burning
Fla. pastor still set for Sept. 11
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy said Wednesday he was determined to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, despite pressure from the White House, religious leaders and others to call it off.
Pastor Terry Jones said at a press conference that he has received a lot of encouragement, with supporters mailing copies of the Islamic holy text to his Gainesville church of about 50 followers. He proclaimed in July that he would stage “International Burn-a-Quran Day” to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11.
“As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing,” said Jones, who took no questions.
Jones said he has received more than 100 death threats and has started carrying a .40-caliber pistol since announcing his plan to burn the book Muslims consider the word of God and insist be treated with the utmost respect. Jones, 58, was flanked by an armed escort Wednesday.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Kabul, took the rare step of a military leader taking a position on a domestic matter when he warned in an e-mail to the Associated Press that “images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”
Petraeus spoke Wednesday with Afghan President Karzai about the matter, according to a military spokesman Col. Erik Gunhus. “They both agreed that burning of a Quran would undermine our effort in Afghanistan, jeopardize the safety of coalition troopers and civilians,” Gunhus said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the pastor’s plans were outrageous, and along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, urged Jones to cancel the event.
The Vatican denounced the protest and a religious watchdog group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said it would send a copy of the Quran to the Afghan National Army for every one that might be burned.
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