Koran-burning pastor calls for holding Islam accountable
GAINESVILLE, Florida (AFP) – The US pastor, whose burning of a Koran sparked deadly violence in Afghanistan, has called for “immediate” US and UN action against its perpetrators, saying the whole religion of Islam must be held accountable.
“Islam is not a religion of peace,” Dove World Outreach Center Pastor Terry Jones said in a statement issued after seven foreign UN workers had been killed in Afghanistan by protesters angered by the Koran burning, in the deadliest attack on the UN there since the 2001 invasion.
“The time has come to hold Islam accountable,” he added.
Four Nepalese, one Swedish, one Norwegian and one Romanian worker were believed to have been killed Friday, and several protesters killed or wounded after a mob overwhelmed guards at the UN compound in the normally relatively calm city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the violence following a battle of over three hours in which part of the building was burned down amid small arms fire and explosions.
Jones called the killings “a very tragic and criminal action.”
“The United States government and the United Nations itself, must take immediate action,” he continued. “We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities.”
The controversial evangelical pastor said he and his supporters demanded action from the United Nations.
“Muslim dominated countries can no longer be allowed to spread their hate against Christians and minorities,” he said. “They must alter the laws that govern their countries to allow for individual freedoms and rights, such as the right to worship, free speech, and to move freely without fear of being attacked or killed.”
Jones presided over the burning of the Islamic holy book March 20 at his Florida church, an act he had long threatened despite warnings it would put American troops and others in Afghanistan in danger.
In a separate interview with AFP, he said said he was “devastated” by the killings in Afghanistan but did not feel responsible for them.
“We don’t feel responsible for that,” he said. “The radical element of Islam takes that as an excuse to promote their violent activities… What we would like to see is the United States government standing up, the UN standing up.
“It’s time to stop ignoring the violence going on in Muslim countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he said.
Jones said the killings “won’t change anything we’re doing” but added that there’s no plan to burn another Koran.
“We have, right now, no plans, no,” he told AFP when asked if he will burn another Koran.
“It is not part of our agenda to go around the country burning Korans.”
Don Northrup founded the church “in the living room of his home” in 1986 in Gainesville, according to the church’s website. Members raised $150,000 to build the church in its current location.
Northrup died in 1996 and Jones took over several years later.
The church’s website encourages visitors to donate money and offers for sale coffee mugs, t-shirts and caps — all featuring anti-Islam slogans.
The website also rails against homosexuality and abortion.
Despite his beliefs about Islam, Jones said: “We’re not Koran experts.” He added that, “I would not consider myself an expert on the Bible.”
Luke Jones, 29, said he and his father are “common people.”
“We’ve not studied the Koran, but we still have an opinion. We’re actually not educated. We’re common people,” said the son, who also is a pastor at the church.
Terry Jones said he received a death threat prior to the killings Friday, which has made him “very cautious” but “not fearful.”
Luke Jones, who is licensed to carry a gun, said he is married and has two children and has made preparations for his grandparents to take care of his family in the event that he should die.
“It worries us,” he said of the threat, “but our convictions are too strong.”