Terry Jones, the virulently Islamophobic pastor behind last fall’s barely averted “International Burn a Koran Day,” may have lost a battle or two, but his personal crusade is clearly still on. Having reluctantly canceled plans to burn Islam’s holy book last Sept. 11 – an idea that won him worldwide attention – Jones is now upping the ante with an announcement that Dove World Outreach Center, his Gainesville, Fla.-based church, will host “International Judge the Koran Day” on March 20.
“Here’s your opportunity, all you so-called peaceful Muslims,” he says in a video announcing the event. “We are accusing the Koran of murder, rape, deception, being responsible for terrorist activities all over the world. … Present to us your defense attorney who is going to defend the Koran. Let us really see. We challenge you: do it. Let us not talk. Let us have some action and proof.”
Perhaps hoping to spread the blame if – or rather, when – the Koran is found guilty, Jones has invited the public to vote on the proper form of “execution” via his FaceBook page, “Stand Up America Now.” The four options on offer are burning, drowning, shredding “into little bitty pieces,” or execution by firing squad.
The Southern Poverty Law Center designated Dove World Outreach Center a hate group in 2010.
Jones, who sports a bushy Fu Manchu mustache and a heavy Southern drawl, can at first come across as an almost absurd figure – a hate-spewing pastor with a tiny and shrinking congregation – but despite his prior obscurity, the threat he now poses is all too real. His most notorious PR stunt, last September’s “International Burn a Koran Day,” never happened. But it provoked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. military commander for Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus, then-White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and Pope Benedict XVI to each condemn the plan publicly. News reports around the world about Jones’ plans provoked anti-American rallies and may have led to violence as well. Ultimately, it took a personal phone call from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who warned Jones that he was putting American troops in danger, to persuade the reluctant pastor to cancel his event.
One result of the negative global attention he received was that Jones has been banned from traveling to the United Kingdom, where he was invited by a British anti-Muslim organization last month to speak at a series of anti-Islam events. Explaining the decision to bar him, UK Home Secretary Theresa May said that her office “has the right to exclude people who are not conducive to public good.”
The White House press office had not responded to a Hatewatch request for comment about Jones’ latest exploits as of this morning.
Media-baiting exploits have become something of a staple for Dove World Outreach, whose Islamophobia is matched only by its hatred for the LGBT community. On Sept. 11, 2009, Jones led followers wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Islam is of the Devil” in a march around a mall parking lot. A month later, he and his congregation held at an “anti-gay pride parade” at the same site and at the same time as the Gainesville LGBT Pride Parade. Last March, he put up signs reading “No Homo Mayor" that targeted openly gay Gainesville mayoral candidate Craig Lowe. Despite that, Lowe won handily.
Jones’ determination to trash a Koran this time around takes on a slightly different twist. Instead of burning the book outright, it will instead be put on “trial.”
A “prosecuting attorney” has already been secured, in the person of Muslim-to-Christian convert Ahmad Mustafa Abaza. In an online autobiography, Abaza claimed that God raised him from the dead after his father beat him for converting, and that he was enslaved by an evil sheikh and personally persecuted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before Abaza escaped from his native land. Abaza also founded TheTruthTV, an Arab-language webpage on which, according to the press release, the “trial” will supposedly be streamed in both English and Arabic.
“Muslims, we challenge you,” Jones says in his video. “Last time y’all had a big mouth. You mouthed off. You continue to mouth off around the world about how peaceful the Koran is. Well, we challenge you. Send us, submit to us, your defense atty. Come on that day, March the 20th, and try to defend the Koran. And we will see.”
So far, the proposed trial has failed to entice: A spokesperson for Dove World Outreach confirmed that no one has offered to act as defense counsel to the Koran.
Perhaps this is because Dove’s World Outreach Center’s past statements about the Koran make it seem unlikely that book is really presumed innocent. In a YouTube video with Jones, Dove World pastor Wayne Sapp said that the Koran “is definitely guilty of atrocities against humanity. It is guilty of murder, rape, slavery. So it deserves its judgment, it deserves its execution. … What do you think, Dr. Jones?”
Said Jones: “I think it deserves it all.”