GAINESVILLE, Fla. 8212; A minister said Tuesday that he will continue with plans to burn the Quran to protest the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks despite warnings from U.S. Gen. David Petraeus in Afghanistan that doing so would endanger the lives of American soldiers.
Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center said he understands Gen. David Petraeus’ concerns, but plans to go forward with the burning this Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the attacks.
He left the door open to change his mind, however, saying that he is still praying about his decision.
Petraeus warned Tuesday in an e-mail to The Associated Press that “images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan 8212; and around the world 8212; to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”
Jones told the AP in a phone interview that he is also concerned but wonders how many times the U.S. can back down.
“We think it’s time to turn the tables, and instead of possibly blaming us for what could happen, we put the blame where it belongs 8212; on the people who would do it,” he said. “And maybe instead of addressing us, we should address radical Islam and send a very clear warning that they are not to retaliate in any form.”
Jones says he has received more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a .40-caliber pistol strapped to his hip.
The threats started not long after the 58-year-old minister proclaimed in July that he would stage “International Burn a Quran Day.”
The fire department has denied Jones a required burn permit for Sept. 11, but he has vowed to go ahead with his event. He said lawyers have told him his right to burn the Quran is protected by the First Amendment whether he’s got permission from the city or not.
Muslims consider the Quran to be the word of God and insist it be treated with the utmost respect, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad.
In this progressive north Florida town of 125,000 anchored by the sprawling University of Florida campus, the lanky preacher with the bushy white mustache is mostly seen as a fringe character who doesn’t deserve the attention he’s getting.