NEW YORK — The imam leading an effort to build an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site said Friday he has no plans to meet with a Florida pastor who had threatened to burn copies of the Koran.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said, however, that he is open to seeing anyone "seriously committed to pursuing peace."
FM: Israel behind planned Koran burning
to burn US flags in protest of burning of holy book
The Rev. Terry Jones has created outrage in the US and around the world
by threatening to have his small congregation burn the Muslim holy book.
He later said he wouldn't follow through if he was able to meet Saturday
with Rauf.Planned Koran burning leads to deadly riots in Afghanistan
The imam's comments came after one man was killed and several others injured in Afghanistan earlier on
Friday during protests against the planned burning.
Following Eid al-Fitr prayers in northern Afghanistan, thousands of
Muslims took to the streets to demonstrate against
Jones' International Burn-a-Koran Day.
Some of the protesters threw stones at a NATO base and one man was
killed when troops inside allegedly opened fire. NATO launched an
investigation into the incident.
Protests across the Muslim world took place on Friday despite the fact that it was unclear whether or not Pastor Jones still intended to carry out the Koran burning.
An imam and the independent preacher fiercely
disagree as to whether or not they struck a deal to stop the Koran-burning
at a tiny church in exchange for moving the location of a mosque
planned near the fallen World Trade Center.Still unclear whether burning will go ahead
That means the pastor might still go ahead with his plan to burn a
Muslim holy book on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the 9/11
terrorist attacks. The threat has ignited a firestorm of criticism from
Muslim nations, President Barack Obama, the Vatican and US commanders in
Afghanistan, among others.
Imam Muhammad Musri said he was clear on Thursday when he told the Rev. Terry Jones that he could set up a meeting with planners of the New York City mosque, but insisted he never promised to shift the location. Jones announced after the meeting — with Musri at his side — that they had a bargain and that he would call off the Koran-burning.
Later he accused Musri of lying and said the burning was only suspended, not canceled.
"We are just really shocked," Jones said hours after his original
announcement. "He clearly, clearly lied to us."
Musri, the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida,
countered that Jones wasn't confused or misled and that "after we
stepped out in front of the cameras, he stretched my words" about the
The imam in charge of the New York Islamic center and mosque project
also quickly denied any deal was made.
Musri said Jones had instead caved into the firestorm of criticism from
around the world and that his announcement might have been a ploy to try
to force Muslim leaders' hand on the Islamic center.
Jones said later he expected Musri to keep his word and "the imam in New
York to back up one of his own men." Musri said he still plans to go
ahead with the meeting Saturday.
Despite Jones' wavering, many in Asia greeted the news not to burn the
Koran with relief, though some said the damage already has been done.
Muslims consider the book the sacred word of God and insist it be
treated with the utmost respect.
Cleric Rusli Hasbi told worshippers attending Friday morning prayers in
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, that Jones had
already "hurt the heart of the Muslim world."
"If he'd gone through with it, it would have been tantamount to war,"
the cleric said in the coastal town of Lhokseumawe. "A war that would
have rallied Muslims all over the world."
In New York, the Islamic center project leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf,
said he was glad Jones had backed down but that he had not spoken to the
pastor or Musri.
"We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we
going to barter," Rauf said. "We are here to extend our hands to build
peace and harmony."
Moving the mosque is not why Jones canceled his threat, Musri said.
Instead, he relented under the pressure from political and religious
leaders of all faiths worldwide to halt what Obama called a "stunt."
Musri said Jones told him the burning "would endanger the troops
overseas, Americans traveling abroad and others around the world."
"That was the real motivation for calling it off," Musri said.
Jones had never invoked the mosque controversy as a reason for his
planned protest at his Dove World Outreach Center. Instead, he cited his
belief that the Koran is evil because it espouses something other than
biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.
Obama urged Jones to listen to "those better angels," saying that
besides endangering lives, it would give Islamic terrorists a recruiting
tool. Defense Secretary Robert Gates took the extraordinary step of
calling Jones personally.
Jones' church, which has about 50 members, is independent of any
denomination. It follows the Pentecostal tradition, which teaches that
the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in the modern day.