The pastor of a tiny, fringe evangelical church in Florida rebuffed a plea for restraint Tuesday from Gen. David Petraeus, who warned that a plan to burn the Muslim holy book could provoke violence against American troops and citizens overseas.
â€œInstead of possibly blaming us for what could happen, we put the blame where it belongs â€” on the people who would do it,â€ Pastor Terry Jones of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville,
Fla., told The Associated Press. â€œWe should address radical Islam and send a very clear warning that they are not to retaliate in any form.â€
Jones also said he was still praying over his decision and hinted that he might change his mind. â€œWe understand the generalâ€™s concerns and we are taking those into consideration,â€ he told WOFL-TV in Orlando.
A coalition of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders held a news conference in Washington on Tuesday to condemn Jonesâ€™ statements and other slurs aimed at Muslims nationwide.
â€œThe threatened burning of copies of the Holy Quran this Saturday is a particularly egregious offense that demands the strongest possible condemnation by all who value civility in public life and seek to honor the sacred memory of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11,â€ said a statement by religious leaders organized by the Islamic Society of North America.
Religious leaders warned that Muslims overseas will misinterpret extremists such as Jones as reflecting mainstream American attitudes toward Muslims. In Afghanistan on Monday, protesters made a point of wrapping an effigy of Jones in an American flag before burning both the effigy and the flag.
Reaction in the Arab news media was more muted, with most commentators and government officials calling on U.S. citizens to honor religious freedom and condemn Jones.