Who Is Terry Jones? Pastor Behind 'Burn a Koran Day'

Firestarter: Pastor Will Burn the Koran
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Like the prophets of old, Terry Jones has a message -- and it's fiery.

The controversial Florida preacher, who first lit a spark on Facebook when he called for people around the world to set fire to copies of the Koran, is now at the center of an international conflagration.

Jones' plan to set ablaze thousands of copies of the Muslim holy book on Sept. 11, a day he's dubbed International Burn a Koran Day, has become a flashpoint. What has been seen for weeks as a strange front in the culture wars, this weekend became a front in America's real war, with Gen. David Patraeus weighing in to say he believed the display would be detrimental and dangerous to U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan.

Firestarter: Pastor Will Burn the Koran
Firestarter: Pastor Will Burn the Koran

Jones recently told ABC News he and his flock would continue "to pray" on whether they would follow through with the bonfire, but suggested they would indeed burn the books on Sept.11.

Jones, 58, is perhaps the unlikely face of what's become a small but international movement that preys on growing hostility and uneasiness in the lead up this year's 9/11 anniversary of the U.S. terrorist attacks.

A former hotel manager, Jones, who worked as a missionary in Europe for 30 years, took over as head of the Dove World Outreach Center, a fundamentalist Christian church in Gainesville, Fla., in 1996.

He is often seen on the church's 20-acre compound with a pistol strapped to his hip.

A fan of Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" -- a poster adorns his office walls at the church -- Jones launched an online video series called the "Braveheart Show," which he uses to preach anti-Islamic sermons to an audience larger than the 50 families who belong to the church.

Jones is the author of "Islam Is of the Devil." That phrase also adorns several billboards on his church's property. Jones said he first began using the phrase last year but since 2002 has marked 9/11 with sermons about Islam and the dangers he believes are inherent in the faith.

In August 2009, two children, a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old, who belong to Jones' church, were sent to school wearing T-shirts that read "Islam Is of the Devil." They were sent home for dress code violations.

According to the Gainesville Sun, Alachua County officials revoked part of the church's tax-exempt status earlier this year, saying portions of the 20-acre campus are used in for-profit businesses. The property is valued at more than $1.6 million, but the 1,700-square-foot taxable portion is worth only $135,000, according to the Gainsville Sun.

A rumor circulated on the Internet and by several media outlets that Jones was convicted on child pornography charges, but it proved untrue.

Jones' bank, he has said, recently demanded repayment of the $140,000 balance on the church's mortgage.

As of Sept. 7, 8,663 people had become fans of the International Burn a Koran Day page on Facebook.

Jones believes Islam promotes violence and that Muslims want to impose sharia law in the United States.

Jones previously told ABCNews.com that he planned to burn "a few hundred Korans" in a bonfire on church property. He's expecting a crowd of "several hundred" but believes others will burn the books on their own.

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