Florida Pastor Wavers on Whether to Burn Qurans

Posted September 9, 2010 at 5:18pm

Updated: 11:07 p.m.

Terry Jones, the pastor of a small church in Florida who sparked worldwide outrage with his plan to burn copies of the Quran, has called off his event, numerous news outlets reported Thursday.

But by late evening he said his church would “rethink our position” and reconsider holding the event, CNN reported.

Should the event remain canceled, it would likely prompt cheers from politicians on both sides of the aisle who have condemned Jones’ plans to burn the Islamic holy book Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Jones said he canceled the event because the group planning an Islamic community center near the site of the attacks in New York City had agreed to build it farther away. But when it became clear that no relocation had been agreed on, he backed off the cancellation.

But Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the religious leader behind the center, said in a statement later Thursday that there has been no deal to relocate, according to CNN. “I am glad Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Qurans,” he said in the statement, adding that he had not spoken to Jones and was surprised by the announcement.

Sharif El-Gamal, developer of the community center, also said there has been no change in plans. “It is untrue that the community center known as Park51 in lower Manhattan is being moved,” he said in a statement, according to CNN.

Jones drew global condemnation over his planned burning, which he had argued would be a stand against terrorism.

Shortly before news of Jones’ announcement broke, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted the planned Quran burning, saying it “would send a message of intolerance that is inconsistent with the teaching of all faiths and does not reflect the values of our nation.” Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said the Speaker was pleased with reports indicating that the event was off.

President Barack Obama warned Thursday that such an event would be “a recruitment bonanza” for al-Qaida.

“If he’s listening, I just hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values of Americans,” Obama said during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan,” he added.