A FLORIDA church was yesterday promoting an event where it will burn copies of the Koran to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the U.S.
In the announcement on its Facebook page, The Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Florida, asked other religious groups to join in standing “against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil!”
The Facebook event has received more than 1,500 “Like” recommendations by users, but had also been attacked with a number of threatening messages posted on the page and corresponding anti-Islam rants.
The church’s pastor, Terry Jones – who has written a book titled “Islam is of The Devil” and sells T-shirts bearing the same message – defended the controversial event.
“Islam and Sharia law was responsible for 9/11,” Jones told Agence France-Presse.
“We will burn Korans because we think it’s time for Christians, for churches, for politicians to stand up and say no; Islam and Sharia law is not welcome in the U.S.
“We’ve got many death threats from jihad groups, but we cannot react by fear and we cannot compromise our beliefs. Somebody must stand up.”
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) called for the church to cancel the event, The Christian Post reported.
“It sounds like the proposed Koran burning is rooted in revenge,” NAE president Leith Anderson said.
“Yet the Bible says that Christians should ‘make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.'”
Mainstream Muslim groups also denounced the move and lamented the sentiments promoted by the Gainesville church.
“Unfortunately in [Florida] and nationwide, Islamophobia are actually on the rise,” Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesman Ramsey Kilic told AFP.
“I’m more afraid of those who have anti-Muslim sentiments and may think this is a legitimate action and may want to attack a mosque or attack a Muslim on the street,” he added.
However, Kilic said, “we are not taking any action to avoid this… we don’t want to give attention to this, because that’s what they want.”
Besides the Koran burning ceremony, the Dove World Outreach Center also plans an anti-homosexual event August 2 outside Gainesville’s City Hall. The “No Homo Mayor Protest” targets the city’s first openly gay mayor, Craig Lowe.