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Florida Pastor in New York on 9/11: 'Mission Accomplished, We Will Not Burn Koran'

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The Florida pastor who threatened to burn Korans to mark 9/11 and in the process became the center of a domestic and global maelstrom said Saturday morning that he had definitively canceled the book burning because he had accomplished his mission of revealing Islam to harbor dangerous elements.

"Not today, not ever. We are not going to go back and do it" -- burn the Koran. "It is totally canceled," Pastor Terry Jones told NBC's "Today" show.

Jones had traveled to New York late Friday night following several days of often bizarre brinkmanship as he suddenly made moving the controversy-plagued Islamic center planned near Ground Zero a condition of his canceling the Koran-burning ritual, which was originally set for 6 p.m. Saturday on the grounds of his small, fundamentalist Gainesville church.

Jones told NBC (video here) that he came to New York hoping to meet with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, leader of the Cordoba Initiative that is planning to build the center, but had no meeting scheduled.

Terry JonesHe said that while he hoped to meet Rauf and convince him to move the mosque, he felt his threats to burn some 200 copies of the Koran had fulfilled his goal and that God was telling him to stand down.

"We feel when we started this out that one of our reasons was to show, to expose that there is an element in Islam that is very dangerous and very radical," Jones said. "I believe that we have definitely accomplished that mission."

Jones said the fact that he has received more than 100 death threats without yet burning a Koran, Islam's sacred text, was proof of his views.

Appearing just an hour before the city and the nation would mark the moment nine years ago when the first plane hit the tower at the World Trade Center, Jones -- pastor of a Pentecostal-style 50-member church called the Dove World Outreach Center -- paused dramatically when he was asked directly if the Koran-burning was off. He sighed heavily, and after a moment said it was canceled and would never happen.

Jones also again compared his actions to the biblical story of Abraham, whom God told to sacrifice his son Isaac on a mountaintop. Abraham was set to do the deed when an angel stayed his hand, and God provided a ram to sacrifice instead. Jones said he "was also called to do something crazy," and now God at the last moment indicated he should hold off.

"Of course, Abraham was much wiser than us -- he told no one," Jones said.

Jones and his church had drawn international condemnation and domestic pressure to stop his "stunt" (in President Obama's words) from military, political and religious leaders, from the Pentagon to the Vatican, from Jones' fellow Pentecostals to pundits and pols like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

In recent days Jones for the first time raised the prospect of halting his plans if the Islamic center in New York would be moved. Controversy over the center, often referred to as the Ground Zero mosque -- it is planned as a Muslim-sponsored interfaith community center several blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks -- is widely seen as having primed public attention so that Jones, while a fringe figure, could become the focus of global attention and condemnation with his plans to burn the Koran.

Jones said Saturday he hoped his "first step" in canceling the book burning would open the door to dialogue with Rauf and leaders of the Islamic center project. Rauf has said he is willing to meet anyone of goodwill, and Jones said negotiations were ongoing.

Jones categorically denied that his plan, which he first announced in July as "International Burn a Koran day," was a publicity stunt to draw attention to himself and his church.

Jones, author of a book called "Islam Is of the Devil," was accompanied to the "Today" show interview by his assistant pastor, Wayne Sapp. When asked his views of Islam, Sapp offered a somewhat more nuanced view than the men have expressed previously, going so far as to compare radical elements of Islam to radical elements in Christianity.

"As there are in denominations in Christianity as well, I believe there are facets in Islam as well that push one element more than others," Sapp said. "But that element is alive and well throughout the entire religion."

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I support him 100%. I agree that Islam and Christianity have radical elements in them. We must pray for those who do these things and ask God to cleanse them of all hate and come to God clean. All people!!! all types. We need to live in peace. Pray for your leadership. Do not speak it out for the Devil to get on and use it for his evil. May God have mercy on our souls.

September 11 2010 at 12:36 PM

I don't use bad language so my opinion of this "pastor" is hard to express. He is a plublicity seeking jerk! That's as strong a comment as I can make. If he wanted to burn the book he could have done it without contacting the newspapers and going on t.v. He only succeeded in getting people more angry both at him and the whole situation. My suggestion..FLY THE AMERICAN FLAG not only today but every day. I have three big flags out today...our regular every day flying flag and two big ones hung accross the front of our house. I thank God every day that I am an American.

September 11 2010 at 12:36 PM

Any true Christian would never burn the holy book of another religion. What would Jesus do? He certainly wouldn't burn the holy book of another faith.

September 11 2010 at 12:34 PM

All religion is good. The real problem is that evil and or ignorant people use religion to justify harming others. Unfortunately Pastor Jones is one of the two or maybe a combination of both.

September 11 2010 at 12:34 PM

I could have existed without ever hearing about this man...but thanks to the news media, he is now an international figure.....worthless junk fed to us when there are more issues truly affecting our lives and apparently no solutions......

September 11 2010 at 12:32 PM

He has evey right to burn whatever he wants...he has freedom of prayer just like Islam has freedom of prayer...2 blocks from ground zero too.. Sounds like he hit a sore spot with Islam..whelp...Islam his our soft spot on 9/11

September 11 2010 at 12:30 PM

Keep it up America, keep up your rant about how wrong the minister was to stand up for your rights, and watch the Muslims dancing in the streets again when they kill another couple thousand innocent people in the name of Allah. Right now no Koran has been burned by this minister, yet all over the globe the Islamics are burning our flags and dancing on them yelling "death to America". Where the hell is your pride in your own country?

September 11 2010 at 12:30 PM
hi Valerie

Terry Jones, not the same Terry Jones from Monty Python, should have never been given the media attention he recieved. All this has done was given this nut donations from the radical right wingers and sparked a media frenzy that wasn't warranted. This jokester is a country bumpkin and is indicative of the Tea People's stance. If we had ignored him from the beginning, we would have not had this issue become an issue, nor would we have to worry about creating more hate groups because of nonsense like this. If he had truly given a real crap about America and Islam, he woulda, shoulda, coulda picked up and browsed through a Koran, before he opened his big mouth. This clown should be in the circus where he belongs.

September 11 2010 at 12:30 PM

Has this idiot even read the book??? Every religion has it's faults and overbearing amount of false prophets but none teach violence. They teach tolerance. he is no pastor but a cult leader. of course his mission was accomplished....15 min of

September 11 2010 at 12:29 PM

I totally agree with this guy. if the islams in their country think they have the right to burn, spit, and stomp on OUR flag, what's the difference? On September 11th, 2001, when the islams saw the twin towers fall to the ground, they decided to make a nice little video of them cheering at the sight of our downfall & misery. Most think we shouldn't stoop to the same level, but what else are supposed to do? Sit and WATCH them burn, spit, and stomp on our most sacred symbols? I don't know about you, but I think this guy was just standing up for his rights, and he had all the reason to do so...

September 11 2010 at 12:28 PM

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