Florida Pastor Terry Jones: Qurans won’t Burn if N.Y. Imam Meets
By Larry Copeland and Rick Hampson, USA TODAY
Speaking to NBC‘s “Today” show, the Rev. Terry Jones said if he meets with the imam in New York, he won’t burn the Quran. It wasn’t clear if he meant the burning would be halted indefinitely or just for Saturday.
Imam Muhammad Musri, the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, told CBS’ “The Early Show” he had a commitment for Jones and himself to meet in New York with the imam there.
In Afghanistan, thousands protested the church’s plan to burn the Muslim holy book. At least 11 people have been injured. Protesters also burned an American flag at a mosque after Friday prayers.
Jones on Thursday called off his Sept. 11 plan to burn copies of the Quran. Hours later, he threatened to reconsider.
Thursday afternoon, Jones said he was swayed by a call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the promise of a face to face meeting with the Muslim leader behind a planned Islamic cultural center, including a mosque, near the World Trade Center site in New York. Later that day, he accused another Muslim leader of lying to him with a promise to relocate that mosque.
Jones’ plan to burn Qurans had outraged Muslims, and he had been pressured by many, including President Obama, to cancel the plan.
On Thursday, Jones met with Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Orlando-based Islamic Society of Central Florida, and the two held a joint news conference in which Jones said, “We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday.” Jones said he will spend the anniversary of 9/11 flying to New York to meet with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the planned mosque and cultural center.
Jones also said he canceled the event after striking a deal to relocate the mosque, but backers of the mosque said there is no such deal. “I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Qurans,” Rauf said Thursday. “However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam (Musri).”
Musri also later told the Associated Press that no deal had been reached. He said that he had offered only a meeting between Jones, himself and Imam Rauf.
Hours after the news conference, Jones said Musri “clearly lied to us.”
“Given what we are now hearing, we are forced to rethink our decision,” Jones said. “So as of right now, we are not canceling the event, but we are suspending it.” Jones did not say whether the burning could still be held Saturday.
Earlier Thursday, Jones said he was influenced to cancel the burning by a call from Gates. “He encouraged us not to continue,” Jones said. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed the call.
Meanwhile, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, which has been criticized for protests at the funerals of U.S. servicemembers, said Thursday night that it will burn the Quran and a U.S. flag Saturday, although specifics had not been ironed out.