Terry Jones: Burning Korans 'Meant to Be a Warning'

Preacher says bonfire of holy books will send a message to Muslims.

September 7, 2010, 1:08 PM

Sept. 7, 2010— -- As far as Terry Jones is concerned, he's just supplying the kindling -- several hundred copies of the Koran, Islam's holiest book.

He said the spark was ignited nine years ago when a band of Muslim terrorists boarded planes and turned U.S. citizens into weapons against their own people.

Now, as symbol of fiery retribution, Jones plans to build a giant bonfire and set ablaze the Muslim holy book on Sept. 11.

International Burn a Koran Day has become a flashpoint. What was seen for weeks as a strange front in the culture wars, this weekend became a front in America's real war, when Gen. David Petraeus weighed in to say he believed the display would be detrimental and dangerous to U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan.

What started as a simmering page on Facebook, Burn a Koran Day has become an international conflagration that the White House has been forced to discuss, if only to condemn.

Despite weeks of complaints -- and also, he claims, several death threats -- Jones has shown no signs of relenting.

When ABC News' "Nightline" caught up with the controversial preacher, who always keeps a pistol close at hand, he said he and his flock would consider Petraeus' advice and continue to pray about whether to go ahead with the book burning.

But, all the signs point to an inferno. There is panel truck full of wood on the Gainesville, Fla., church's 20-acre campus, as well as a clearing set aside for the fire pit. The Facebook page has more 8,000 members.

And there's the rhetoric.

"Of course it's insulting, of course it's not a nice thing to do," Jones, a former hotel manager, told "Nightline's" Terry Moran. "But this is a very dangerous religion. If we don't do it, when do we stop backing down?"

On the road leading up to the church are a series of signs that read, "Islam is of the Devil."

That also happens to be the title of Jones' book, a screed on Islam's violent history and the dangers Jones said it presents to the U.S.

Terry Jones Defends Burning Korans

As far as Jones is concerned, there is one true faith and it is Christianity. To Jones, Islam is tantamount to Satanism and Muslims are trying to force sharia -- strict religious law -- on the United States.

"This is meant to be a warning to the radical element," Jones said of Muslim extremists. "Jesus said, 'I am the only way.'"

Jones said his message was intended to be a radical response to what he sees as a radical religion.

"We feel that a radical message is necessary," he said. "We expect moderate Muslims to agree with us. ... All Christians should agree with our message that radical Islam is dangerous and we should say no to that."

A fan of Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" -- a poster of the film adorns a wall of his office -- 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.

On Sunday, some two dozen people including children and a few Germans were in attendance at church services at Jones' Dove World Outreach Center. The subject of the sermon? International Burn a Koran Day.

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