September 8, 2010; Source: Wall Street Journal | The Florida pastor planning a burning of the Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks said Thursday he has cancelled the event. The pastor’s announcement came after a personal appeal to him from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and follows other critical statements including one from President Obama.
The pastor, Terry Jones, said that he had reached a deal with the imam planning the center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, to move the Islamic center far from ground zero. This statement seems to be false. Rauf said he had not spoken to Jones or Muhammad Musri, the Orlando Imam who has been acting as a mediator between New York and Gainesville.
This isn’t the first time the NPQ Newswire has taken note of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla. This past March, we wrote about the church’s propensity to wield ugly signs about people and religions that its leader, Terry Jones, and its 50 (yes, only 50) members don’t like, such as one equating Islam with the devil.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, had suggested that a public burning of the Koran could be used to generate animosity toward the U.S. and put U.S. troops in harm’s way. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Republican and Democratic candidates for Florida governor, and Sarah Palin have all denounced the Dove event.
An official in Iran called Jones a “Christian Zionist” and concluded that he was supported by Israel. Gainesville’s mayor, denounced in an earlier Dove video and City Hall protest as the “homo mayor” (threatening the church’s tax exemption) called the Dove church “an embarrassment to the community.” However, the ACLU has gingerly supported the church’s right to free speech, suggesting that even disgusting sentiments are protected by the constitution (the ACLU is suing the local public schools to support the rights of two children of Dove World Outreach families who wore “Islam is of the Devil” t-shirts to school last year).
Put this in context. Whether it is the proposed construction of an Islamic center two football field lengths away from Ground Zero of the 9/11 attacks, protests and vandalism at a proposed mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., or this micro-church’s now-cancelled plan to publicly burn Islam’s sacred text, there is an unfortunate, to say the least, outpouring recently of anti-Islamic sentiment.
Even a 50-member church in central Florida can do something that attracts attention—negative attention—throughout the world. The wall between local, national, and international is now extremely porous due to cable TV and the Internet. For all the attention the ugly Dove World Outreach non-event has gotten, the nonprofit sector ought to stand up for values of tolerance and inclusiveness and make it clear to the world that the tiny Gainesville church’s name misappropriates the symbolism inherent in the word “dove”. A dove symbolizes beauty, gentility, and charity. We see absolutely none of those meanings in the planned Koran burning.
A clarifying addendum is needed on Pastor Terry Jones and his tiny Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla. According to the AP, conservative religious groups such as the National Association of Evangelicals and the Southern Baptist Convention have tried to dissuade Jones from his planned Koran-burning on September 11th. One reason they have been unsuccessful is that Jones and Dove are independent, not connected to any other religious body, even though he uses terminology similar to Pentacostalism.—Rick Cohen