GAINESVILLE, Fla., Sept. 10, 2010— -- The world held its breath when Pastor Terry Jones vowed to put a match to a stack of Korans -- and possibly to U.S. relations with the Muslim world.
Instead, the world looked on over the last two days at a parade of people including a porn promoting rocker, a rabbi, a preacher, Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi's son, and a little girl holding up a peace sign as she posed for family photos in front of a banner reading: "International Burn a Koran Day."
At times Jones appeared bewildered by the growing press contingent outside his Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., as he was pressed by people as mighty as Defense Secretary Robert Gates and as odd as Dr. K.A. Paul, a former adviser to a former African dictator currently on trial before the World Court for crimes against humanity.
Mike Busey, a rocker/filmmaker/porn promoter, had spent an hour and a half interviewing a confused Jones on Thursday about his to plan to torch several hundred copies of Islam's holiest book.
Standing amid an entourage of black clad, heavily tattooed bodyguards, Busey told ABC News he'd been impressed by Jones' resolve to go through with the burning, something he seemed genuinely excited to see.
An hour later, however, Jones began the first of four press conferences to announce that he had call off the torching. Over the next 24 hours, in quick succession he praised local imam Muhammed al-Musri, called al-Musri a liar, teamed up with Paul, and then apparently abandoned Paul as an ally as well.
Busey's entourage was disappointed, especially his dreadlocked lieutenant clad a three piece suit (but no shirt) and draped in the American flag.
So the lieutenant of the three-piece suit and gleaming golden teeth took his American flag and stood behind Jones. He was joined by a cadre of 9/11 Truthers who kept barking questions at Jones about a 9/11 cover-up.
Jones -- being burned in effigy across the Muslim world, the target of over 100 death threats, and lectured by generals -- didn't seem sure how to respond, so he ignored.
Donald Trump and Gaddafi's Son Weigh in On Koran Burning Crisis
Strangers knocked at the church's door offering to help. Asked by the church's armed congregants their business, the strangers said they wanted to help improve the church's image.
A biker and Gulf War I vet, who called himself John, turned out in support, saying that while he wasn't sure Koran burning was right, he knew he wanted to support Jones' First Amendment right to burn whatever he wants.
The parade of semi-public figures traipsing across the Dove Outreach Centers' lawn and before the battery of cameras was ecumenical, including imams, preachers and a rabbi.
Al-Musri, head of the Islamic Center of Central Florida, played a key role. He came on spec Wednesday and Thursday hoping to negotiate a peaceful end to the impasse that he said would claim many lives. He helped end the impasse by offering to mediate between Jones and imam at New York's so-called Ground Zero Mosque. But he ultimately infuriated Jones who branded him a liar.
On Friday a rabbi arrived and blew a ram's horn, an extremely effective way to gather reporters. Rabbi Dennis Shuman ("that's S then human," he explained) of Congregation P'nair Or of Gainesville, blew the shofar and called for world peace.
The evangelical preacher Paul followed. Paul is a former spiritual advisor to Liberia's ousted leader Charles Taylor. After Paul announced today that there will no burning, Luke Jones, the pastor's son, strode from the church and yanked Paul out of a press conference saying he does not speak for the church. Luke then proceeded to say "there will be no Koran burning. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
In between these walk-ons, Gaddafyi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, issued a statement warning that a Koran burning would have terrible consequences.
"I say that today, if the plan to mock my prophet, my religion and my holy book goes ahead as planned, it will exceed all limits of decency... It will mark the beginning of the Islamic world taking a serious stance to respond to this provocation," Gaddafi said.
Gaddafi wasn't the only bold face name to weigh in on the deliberations at the Dove church. Realtor and TV personality Donald Trump publicly offered to buy the site where the Ground Zero Mosque hopes to build, and end the controversy.