Although Pastor Terry Jones has dropped his threat to burn Korans on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Obama said today he is fearful of copycats looking to get their turn in the spotlight.
"Although this might be one individual in Florida, part of my concern is that we don't start having a whole bunch of people across America thinking this is a way to get attention," Obama said at a press conference today. "This is a way to endanger our troops...you don't play games with that."
Jones reaffirmed today that he no longer plans to go through with his Koran-burning ceremony. But several other religious leaders across the nation say they'll go ahead with their own.
In Springfield, Tenn., Rev. Bob Old has vowed to burn three copies of the Koran in his backyard and plans to videotape it, later uploading it onto the popular video streaming website YouTube.
In Cheyenne, Wyo., Duncan Philp, the founder of the Wyoming Tyranny Response Team, plans to burn a copy of the Koran on the steps of the State Capitol on Saturday, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
The Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., which became infamous for heckling funerals of U.S. soldiers, also has said it will hold a Koran burning.
Instead of burning Korans Saturday, Jones intends to travel to New York City to meet with the man behind the so-called Ground Zero Mosque hoping to convince him to move it away from the vicinity of the 9/11 terror attacks.
But even that has become entangled in confusion that has marked the past 48 hours of talks surrounding the issue. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has indicated that he has no intention of moving the Islamic community center said today that he has no plans to meet with Jones.
That prompted Jones and his newest allly, evangelist Dr. K.A. Paul, to hold a news conference in Gainesville, Fla., and issue a "challenge" to Rauf to call them and state whether he is willing to move his project.
After announcing their phones numbers at the news conference, Paul declared, "The challenge is crystal clear. It's 1:20 now. He has until 3:20, two hours, so there is no cat and mouse game here."
Two hours later, the chaos continued, as Jones told the press that he had not received a phone call but still remained hopeful that "the meeting would take place" in New York.
The pastor's son, Luke Jones, stepped in to tell the media that they would not be kept informed of what going to happen, that Paul was speaking only for himself, and suggested bluntly that maybe the press should leave.
That confusion has been the hallmark of the last few days of efforts to halt the Koran burning, which Obama had said earlier in the week would endanger American troops abroad and would be a recruitiing tool for al Qaeda.
Obama said that he hopes U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' phone call to Jones on Thursday sent a clear message.
"We have an obligation to send a very clear message that his kind of behavior or threats of action put our men and women in harms away and it's also the best imaginable recruiting tool for al Qaeda," said Obama.
Jones decision to cancel his Koran-burning hinged on a deal he claimed he struck with Florida Imam Muhammed Musri who, Jones insists, promised that the Islamic community center and mosque planned near Ground Zero would be moved.