A pastor in Florida who incited the criticism of political and religious leaders for planning to burn a copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks announced on Thursday afternoon that he is canceling the event.
Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Fla. previously said his intention in burning the book was to raise “hard questions” about its content and the nature of Islam. Jones' church reportedly has around 50 members.
The pastor sparked global outrage with his plans, prompting harsh criticism from U.S. government officials, Catholic bishops and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Inter-religious Dialogue.
Jones held a press conference outside his church on Sept. 9 to announce his change of plans. According to the New York Times, the pastor said that he will fly to New York instead to meet with the imam who plans to build a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero.
Jones claimed on Thursday that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in New York City has “agreed to move the mosque,” and that two will be accompanied by Imam Muhammad Musri, the head of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. However, Musri told reporters that no deal had been reached to move the Islamic center and mosque in New York.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that the Pentagon confirmed that Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Jones, urging him not to burn the Quran.
Press secretary for the Pentagon Geoff Morrells told the AP that Gates expressed "his grave concern" that burning of the Quran would endanger the lives of U.S. military, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue also decried the planned burning. The council issued a statement expressing its “great concern” over the plan and stating that “deplorable acts of violence … cannot be counteracted” by burning another religion's sacred book.
Several U.S. bishops also spoke against the burning ceremony. Stating their support for numerous religious leaders who met in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 7 to oppose anti-Muslim sentiment, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop Howard Hubbard said they voiced their “solidarity” with the leaders who gathered to “denounce categorically derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America’s Muslim community.”
The three prelates are chairmen of USCCB's Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.