Florida Pastor Still Wants Meeting on New York Islamic Center

The Florida pastor who planned to burn Korans on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks today now says he won’t “ever” burn Islam’s holy book.

Terry Jones, who arrived in New York City last night, is still seeking a meeting with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who plans to build an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site. The pastor said in an interview on NBC’s “Today Show” that no meeting has been scheduled.

“We feel that God is telling us to stop,” Jones said. “And we also hope that with us making this first gesture, not burning the Koran, to say, ‘No, we’re not going to do it, not today, not ever, we’re not going to go back and do it, it is totally canceled.’

“We hope that through that maybe that will open up a door to be able to talk to the imam about the Ground Zero mosque.”

Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, said on “Today” that the goal of his protest had been accomplished and it wasn’t a publicity stunt.

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

Death Threats

He said he “can absolutely guarantee” there will be no Koran burning at his church, even if the Islamic center near Ground Zero is built. Jones, who has acknowledged receiving more than 100 death threats, said he “wasn’t scared into calling off the burning.”

President Barack Obama urged Jones to cancel the planned event, which sparked protests from Muslims around the world. Defense Secretary Robert Gates telephoned the pastor on Sept. 9 to ask him to call off the burning.

“The headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America” if the proposed Islamic center is moved, Rauf said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” according to a partial transcript released by the network. “This will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world.”

Ceremonies are being held today at the three sites where terrorists crashed the hijacked planes in 2001, killing almost 3,000 people.

The president spoke and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial near Washington, while Vice President Joe Biden attended the World Trade Center site ceremony. First lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush attended a service in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The World Trade Center ceremony began shortly before 8:46 a.m., the moment when a jetliner hijacked by members of the Muslim terrorist group al-Qaeda smashed into the complex’s north tower. A second airplane hit the south tower 17 minutes later.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net; Dan Hart in Washington at dahart@bloomberg.net.

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