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Despite what appeared to be his best efforts, anti-Muslim Koran-burning publicity hound Terry Jones failed to ignite a full-blown civil disturbance during a rally Friday on the steps of City Hall in Dearborn, Mich., a city whose population is one-third Muslim. But there was anger aplenty among Jones’ detractors, who turned out in large numbers to heckle him despite the pleas of local Muslim leaders to just ignore the obnoxious pastor.
Jones, head of the tiny Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., delivered a speech before several dozen supporters and an estimated 600 counter-protesters whose shouts, noisemakers and chants of “Go home, Terry Jones,” and, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” often drowned out the preacher’s amplified voice.
Jones appeared to savor taunting his detractors, according to media reports and an amateur video posted online. He began his talk by claiming that Dearborn and other parts of the United States are under Shariah law — the Islamic code of religious and moral behavior. “We will not allow Shariah to be instituted” in the United States, he said. Jones told the crowd that Islam promotes lying.
At one point, Jones ignored police and walked right up to the barricades behind which the counter-protesters stood, infuriating them to the point that some threw bottles, shoes (a symbol of disrespect in Arab culture) and even spit in the direction of Jones’ supporters. Arab-American leaders and police succeeded in restraining demonstrators who breached the police barricades.
Press reports did not indicate whether Jones uttered his signature phrase — “Islam is of the devil” — which also happens to be the title of his book and the slogan adorning the baseball caps, mugs and T-shirts being hawked at the website.
Jones became internationally infamous after threatening to burn a Koran on Sept. 11, 2010, and then actually doing so in March in a video posted to the church’s Stand Up America Now website. The March event sparked riots in Afghanistan that killed more than 20 people, including at least seven United Nations workers. Rather than express remorse at the deaths of innocent people, Jones opted to enhance his new notoriety by staging a Good Friday protest at the Islamic Center of America, one of the nation’s largest mosques. It’s located in the heart of Dearborn, the nation’s most visible concentration of Muslims.
That protest never happened. A local prosecutor took him to court, where a jury decided that he would be required to post a “peace bond,” which the judge set at $1. He and his colleague Wayne Sapp were jailed briefly after refusing to pay the $1 bond. They missed their planned protest, but got something even better in return — status as First Amendment crusaders. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said the peace bond statute represented prior restraint of legal speech. The conservative Thomas More Law Center has taken on Jones as a client in what it promises will be a lawsuit against city and county officials.