When the Dove World Outreach Center announced last month that it would commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by staging a burning of the Koran, Islam's holy book, it seemed to confirm the Gainesville, Fla.-based church as a fringe element
even among Christian fundamentalists.
That reputation was solidified Tuesday night when CNN reported
that Dove's pastor, Terry Jones, had accepted an offer from a militia group called Right Wing Extreme to send between 500 and 2,000 men on September 11 to protect the congregation "in light of the death and terror threats we have received."
But early Wednesday morning even Right Wing Extreme decided the Koran-burning wasn't a good idea and withdrew its offer in a statement
that emphasized that the main reason for balking is that it might hurt efforts to convert Muslims to Christianity.
"After much thought and prayer the organization's leadership determined this event does not glorify GOD in way that leads the lost to Jesus Christ," the militia said.
It blamed the "liberal media" for trying to "distract, divide, and enrage the public," and said the folks at Dove World Outreach Center remain "our brothers and sisters in Christ."
"However we ask that they not hold this event for the reason that it may diminish the work of the Holy Spirit to witness to Muslims. America is a nation founded on the Bible. Capitalism, our form of government, our laws and our freedoms come directly from the Bible," it said.
Posters on Right Wing Extreme's website were divided
on the move, but Pastor Jones at Dove World Outreach reiterated his determination to go forward with the book-burning even without the protection of Right Wing Extreme.
"I can only come to the conclusion -- it seems very, very obvious -- they . . . have bowed to fear or to pressure from other organizations, other groups," Jones told CNN
But he said the point of the event is too important to back down now: "This is sending a clear warning to radical Islam that they are not welcome in America."