A South African court has blocked a Muslim businessman’s plan to burn Bibles on Saturday in response to a Florida pastor’s threat to burn the Koran, the lawyer who brought the case said.
The Johannesburg High Court issued an urgent interdict late Friday blocking Mohammed Vawda from burning Bibles at a square in the centre of the city, said Zehir Omar.
Vawda’s plans for a “Burn the Bible Day” were intended to react to pastor Terry Jones’ threats to mark Saturday’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States by setting alight a pile of Korans, said Omar, who brought the case on behalf of an Islamic intellectual organisation, Scholars of the Truth.
“Vawda insisted that something must be done in retaliation to pastor Jones’ plans,” Omar told AFP.
“He was horribly riled up at pastor Jones’ repeated threats.”
Jones, head of a small church in Gainesville, Florida, drew worldwide attention with his threatened Koran-burning, but he seemed to have abandoned the plans by Friday after pleas from US President Barack Obama and several other world leaders.
Vawda, 38, said Jones’ plans were “inciteful”.
“He angered me and outraged me. My actions were aimed against him. I wanted to stop him somehow. He didn’t listen to his own president,” Vawda told the Saturday Star newspaper.
Omar said his clients had brought the case to stop the burning of the Judeo-Christian text which is also considered sacred by many Muslims.
“The Scholars of the Truth are of the view that the burning of the Bible is offensive to Muslims. The Koran incorporates the Gospel and the Torah,” he said.
“Burning the Bible would be tantamount to burning portions of the Koran.”
Vawda said that after reading court papers quoting Koranic verses on the importance of respecting Christian and Jewish holy books, he was glad his plans had been blocked.
“Applicants in their papers brought to my attention verses of the Koran I was not aware of. In other words, the Koran is saying the Gospel is part of the Koran, and that if I burn the Bible, I’m also burning the Koran,” he said.
“Luckily they stopped me from doing it.”
Omar said the court had ruled it illegal to burn any text considered sacred in religiously diverse South Africa — a legal approach he said the United States could follow.
“Had the Americans done the same thing, they could have saved the damage to their own international repute, which is already tarnished,” he said.