Terry Jones Defies Administration, Plans to Burn Korans Anyway

Uncowed, fiery preacher says 9/11 Burn a Koran Day will go on

September 7, 2010, 1:08 PM

Sept. 8, 2010— -- Terry Jones, the lanky, hardscrabble preacher from Gainesville, Florida, was at it again today. But now, more and more people around the world are listening to Jones' every word.

"As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing," Jones said. He is the man who has called for a burning of copies of the Koran on 9/11.

As people in Gainesville waited, some of them gathered in prayer, the condemnations from virtually every quarter of American and world leadership continued, starting with longtime televangelist Pat Robertson, who blasted Pastor Jones this morning on the "700 Club" program.

"Imagine a pastor that is so egotistical that he would sacrifice the lives of missionaries and soldiers to go forward with something," Robertson said. "This is so stupid."

Sarah Palin also condemned Jones today on her Twitter account, tweeting that "Koran Burning Is Insensitive, Unnecessary; Pastor Jones, Please Stand Down."

"If your ultimate point is to prove that the Christian teachings of mercy, justice, freedom, and equality provide the foundation on which our country stands, then your tactic to prove this point is totally counter-productive," the former Alaska Governor added on her Facebook page.

ABC News has also learned that evangelical leader Franklin Graham has reached out to Jones in an effort to dissuade him.

Yet, in a remarkable development, a local Muslim leader in Gainesville decided to pay Jones a visit.

"I said I will stand with you. I will talk to the Muslim world, and I will support you. I will defend you as my neighbor regardless of your faith," leader Muhammed Musri said. "I think he was very receptive to that message."

Even so, Jones said he plans on moving forward, convinced he speaks for many Americans, adding that his congregation has received "quite a bit of support."

But a new ABC News poll has found that 26 percent of Americans admit to feelings of prejudice against Muslims. Also, only 54 percent of Americans see Islam as a peaceful religion, with 31 percent saying that mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims.

Still, many Christians feel Jones has crossed the line, including Pastor Dan Johnson of the Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville.

"From a Christian perspective, [we need] to honor, love and respect other people and treat them as we would like to be treated," Johnson said. "Out of obedience to our Lord and our sense of love of neighbor, it's wrong to act this way."

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man who plans to build the Islamic center and mosque near New York City's Ground Zero site, spoke to CNN's Soledad O'Brien on "Larry King Live" about Jones' plan to burn the Koran.

"I would plead with him to seriously consider what he is doing," Rauf said. "It is going to feed into the radicals in the Muslim world."

"We have freedom of speech, but with freedom comes responsibility. ... This is dangerous for our national security, but also it is the un-Christian thing to do."

Burn the Koran? Terry Jones Under Pressure

Jones said he would still defy the wishes of the White House and top military brass and go ahead with his bonfire plans. ABC News has learned that the FBI is concerned that Islamic extremists will retaliate against this weekend's event or others, as noted in FBI intelligence bulletin notes.

"While the FBI has no information to indicate a specific attack has been planned against the United States or US assets in response to the 'International Burn a Koran Day' event, the FBI assesses with high confidence that, as with past incidents perceived as acts of desecration against Islam, extremist actors will continue to threaten or attempt to harm the leaders, organizers, or attendees the event."

Earlier today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Jones' "International Burn a Koran Day" "disgraceful."

"As you can imagine we have received very much pressure in the direction of cancelling the event," Jones told reporters today outside his Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville.

But her comments, as well those of Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gen. David Petreaus and the White House did little to sway the preacher.

"We're a country of what, 310 million plus right now? And, I mean, it's regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Fla., with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distressful, disgraceful plan and get, you know, the world's attention," Clinton said.

Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, warned that Jones' plan would "endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort here."

'100 Percent Behind Us'

Jones said despite the general's concerns, he believed setting the books on fire would be beneficial and was supported by U.S. servicemen.

"Just yesterday we got a phone call from a retired special forces Green Beret... it was his opinion that the people that are on the field, the special forces, he told us are 100 percent behind us," Jones said.

Jones then told a rambling story about Christian churches and hospitals being destroyed by Muslims during the 1990s war in the Balkans.

Local police and the FBI are keeping an eye on the event, planning road closures and a no-fly zone, officials said.

Several politicians and administration officials have echoed Petreaus's concerns that the bonfire of Korans could make things more dangerous for U.S. soldiers.

"Any type of activity like that that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern to this administration," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday.

Tension of "Burn a Koran Day" Heats Up

Holder and Clinton also condemned the planned bonfire.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has supported plans for a controversial Islamic center to be built near Ground Zero, criticized Jones' plans, but defended his right to burn the books on "Good Morning America."

As far as 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 Muslim terrorists flew U.S. jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

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

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 church's 20-acre campus, as well as a clearing set aside for the fire pit.

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 ABC News' "Nightline." "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.

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