NBC News and msnbc.com
updated 9/10/2010 4:05:14 PM ET 2010-09-10T20:05:14

A New York imam at the center of the controversy over a mosque near ground zero said there was no meeting planned with a Florida minister who previously threatened to stage a Quran-burning stunt.

"I am prepared to consider meeting with anyone who is seriously committed to pursuing peace," a statement from Imam Feisal Adbul Rauf said. "We have no such meeting planned at this time. Our plans for the community center have not changed. With the solemn day of September 11 upon us, I encourage everyone to take time for prayer and reflection."

  1. Cartoons
    1. Holy war

      Our cartoonists take a look at the Quran-burning controversy.

Pastor Terry Jones had told NBC's TODAY Show on Friday he would not burn the Quran but could change his mind if a proposed meeting failed to take place Saturday in New York with Muslim leaders planning to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Officials from the Florida church told NBC News that they did not plan a burning event.

"There will be no Quran burning tomorrow. ... Do I have to repeat that over and over and over?" Luke Jones, the pastor's son told NBC News.

In earlier developments, Muhammad Musri, an imam and president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, told CBS TV's "The Early Show" he had a commitment for Jones and himself to meet in New York with the imam there. Subsequently, NBC News reported that ABC's "Good Morning America" show would be flying Jones to New York for the meeting. Later, however, an ABC News spokesperson told the TVNewser website that an offer was made to the pastor by an ABC News staffer in Gainesville, but network higher-ups decided against paying for Jones' flight to New York.

Jones appeared on all three network newscasts this morning. Jones said he has made contact with Musri but that he had not made direct contact with the New York imam.

"No decision has been made to whether we will burn or not burn Qurans," he told NBC. "It is under serious consideration, but at this this point no decision has been made."

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On Friday, President Barack Obama said he hoped Jones would refrain from burning Qurans because it could cause "profound damage" to U.S. interests abroad.

"The idea that we would burn the sacred text of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for," Obama told a news conference, warning it could lead to retaliation against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"This is a way of endangering our troops, our sons and daughters." he said. "It is in the age of the Internet something that can cause us profound damage around the world, so we've got to take it seriously."

Earlier, on the TODAY show, Jones blamed Musri for the confusion surrounding the Quran burning plan's status, and said he felt "lied to."

Video: Pastor Terry Jones: ‘I was lied to’ (on this page)

Jones and Musri had disagreed sharply on the terms of the agreement.

Jones said Thursday he would call off the planned burning of Qurans based on a deal negotiated with the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida that the location of a mosque planned near ground zero in New York would be changed.

But Musri said he was clear on Thursday when he told Jones that he could only set up a meeting with planners of the New York City mosque, whose leader said he had spoken to neither the pastor nor Musri. Jones responded by opening the door, if only a crack, that he would go forward with his plan on Saturday.

"We are just really shocked," Jones said of Musri. "He clearly, clearly lied to us."

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Jones' church, which has about 50 members, is independent of any denomination. It follows the pentecostal tradition, which teaches that the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in the modern day.

Meanwhile, at least 11 protesters were wounded outside a German-run NATO base in northeast Afghanistan Friday. Police said initial reports that someone was killed were wrong. Demonstrations later spread to the capital, Kabul, and at least four other provinces.

Asked if he feels responsible for the demonstrations and the reported death of a protester in Afghanistan, Jones said his church did not pull the trigger, and that the incident "reveals the true nature of Islam."

Jones said he and his followers do not condone violence and that they were surprised by the level of anger. He said radical Islam is more dangerous than even church members ever thought.

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“I am just a man who is trying to do what god has told us to do,” he said, adding that one of his aims is to shed light on the dangers of Islamic militancy.

For U.S. political leaders and Muslims around the world who have been outraged by Jones' antics, the on-again, off-again threat bred even more angst and frustration.

Cleric Rusli Hasbi told 1,000 worshippers attending Friday morning prayers in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, that whether or not he burns the Quran, Jones had already "hurt the heart of the Muslim world."

"If he'd gone through with it, it would have been tantamount to war," the cleric said in the coastal town of Lhokseumawe. "A war that would have rallied Muslims all over the world."

Muslims consider the book the sacred word of God and insist it be treated with the utmost respect.

In Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of U.S. troops are in harm's way, President Hamid Karzai said he had heard reports that Jones had abandoned his Quran-burning plan.

"The holy book is implanted in the hearts and minds of all the Muslims," Karzai said. "Humiliation of the holy book represents the humiliation of our people. I hope that this decision will be stopped and should never have been considered."

Part of the pressure exerted on Jones came from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who briefly spoke to the pastor before his first announcement to call it off. Gates expressed "his grave concern that going forward with this Quran burning would put the lives of our forces at risk, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

Jones said on TODAY that he told Gates the church takes the danger "very seriously," and that members were praying about it.

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Video: Fla. pastor confirms Quran burning is called off

  1. Closed captioning of: Fla. pastor confirms Quran burning is called off

    >> reporter: it and re is with us from there again tonight. kerry, good evening.

    >> reporter: well, good evening, brian. pastor terry jones left it to his son and a controversial evangelical minister to announce the plan to burn more than 200 koran has ended. there will be no korans burned at all. so the worldwide attention on this church and this field in rural central florida ends. pastor jones says he may not even be here himself tomorrow. he's planning on going to new york city where he hopes to meet with imam faisal abdul rauf who hopes to build the muslim cultural center near ground zero . pastor zones wants to tell him he wants that mosque moved. tonight he s says he has no plans to meet with pastor jones and he has no plans to move the mosque. brian?

Explainer: What they're saying about Quran burning plan

  • Image: Church leader says no plans to cancel burning of the Koran.
    Dove World Outreach Center pastor Terry Jones speaks at a news conference Wednesday at his Gainesville, Fla., church.

    Many people from Sarah Palin to Hillary Clinton are weighing in on plans by the Rev. Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11 at his Gainesville, Fla., church. The issue has generated anger among Muslims abroad and concern among U.S. military officers of retaliation against troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. See what they have to say:

  • Pastor Terry Jones, at Wednesday news conference:

    Wednesday: "As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing. Our burning of the Quran is to call attention to the fact that something is wrong."

    Thursday: Jones at a news conference said he prayed about the decision and that if the site of the Islamic center and mosque near ground zero was moved, it would be a sign from God to call off the Quran burning: "The imam has agreed to move the mosque, we have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday. ... We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans. We would right now ask no one to burn Qurans. We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it."

    Later Thursday: "We have not canceled the burning on Saturday; we have suspended it until we get confirmation on the information we were given today. ... We are a little back to square one. I'm praying" to decide what to do next."

  • Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, after news conference with Pastor Jones:

    Image: Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Socie
    PAUL J. RICHARDS  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Imam Muhammad Musri

    "I told the pastor that I personally believe the mosque should not be there, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it is moved. But there is not any offer from there (New York) that it will be moved. All we have agreed to is a meeting, and I think we would all like to see a peaceful resolution."

  • New York Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, in prepared statement:

    Image: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in Dubai
    American Sufi Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

    "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."

  • President Barack Obama, speaking on ABC's ''Good Morning America'' program:

    Image: US Presodent Obama returns from Camp David
    Yuri Gripas  /  Pool via EPA
    President Barack Obama

    "I just hope he understands that what he's proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans. That this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance. ... This is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaida. ... You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who'd be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities."

  • Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, to NBC's Brian Williams:

    Image: US Army Gen. David Petraeus, Comm
    AFP - Getty Images
    Gen. David Petraeus

    “We’re concerned that the images from the burning of a Quran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from Abu Ghraib — that they would in a sense be indelible.

    "They would be used by those who wish us ill, to incite violence and to enflame public opinion against us and against our mission here in Afghanistan, as well as our missions undoubtedly around the world.”

  • Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations:

    Image: Clinton Delivers Foreign Policy Speech At Council On Foreign Relations
    Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

    "It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world's attention, but that's the world we live in right now."

    See video.

  • Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate, from her Facebook page:

    Image: Sarah Palin
    Alex Brandon  /  AP
    Former Gov. Sarah Palin

    "I would hope that Pastor Terry Jones and his supporters will consider the ramifications of their planned book-burning event. It will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appear as nothing more than mean-spirited religious intolerance. Don’t feed that fire. If your ultimate point is to prove that the Christian teachings of mercy, justice, freedom, and equality provide the foundation on which our country stands, then your tactic to prove this point is totally counter-productive."

  • Mohammad Mukhtar, cleric and candidate for Afghan parliament in Sept. 18 election:

    "It is the duty of Muslims to react. When their holy book Quran gets burned in public, then there is nothing left. If this happens, I think the first and most important reaction will be that wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed. No matter where they will be in the world they will be killed."

  • Glenn Beck, Fox talk-show host, on his blog:

    Image: Glenn Beck Hosts Controversial "Restoring Honor" Rally At Lincoln Memorial
    Alex Wong  /  Getty Images
    Glenn Beck

    "What is wrong with us? It’s just like the Ground Zero mosque plan. Does this church have the right? Yes. Should they? No. And not because of the potential backlash or violence. Simply because it is wrong. The more I reflect on what happened on 8/28 the more I realize the amazing power of GOOD. ... Burning the Koran is like burning the flag or the Bible. You can do it, but whose heart will you change by doing it? You will only harden the hearts of those who could be moved."

  • Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and presumed 2012 presidential candidate, to Politico:

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

    “Burning the Quran is wrong on every level. It puts troops in danger, and it violates a founding principle of our republic.”

  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at news conference about construction at Twin Towers site:

    Image: New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
    Jemal Countess  /  Getty Images
    New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

    "In a strange way, I'm here to defend his (Jones') right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful. I don't think he would like it if somebody burned a book that in his religion he thinks is holy. We can't say that we're going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement."

  • Haley Barbour, Mississippi governor and chair of the Republican Governors Association, at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast:

    Image: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour
    Joe Raedle  /  Getty Images
    Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour

    “I do not think well of the idea of burning anybody’s Koran or Bible or Book of Mormon or anything else. I don’t think there is any excuse for it. ... But I will tell you this. Any issue that takes people's eye off of unemployment, job creation, economic growth, taxes, spending, deficits, debts is taking your eye off the ball.”

  • James Jeffrey, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, in a joint statement:

    Image: US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey spea
    Ali Al-saadi  /  AFP - Getty Images
    US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey
    Image: Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin speaks in Baghdad
    Thaier Al-sudani  /  Reuters
    Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin

    The plan is "disrespectful, divisive and disgraceful. ... As this holy month of Ramadan comes to a close and Iraqis prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, we join with the citizens of Iraq and of every nation to repudiate religious intolerance and to respect and defend the diversity of faiths of our fellow man."

  • Ann Coulter, author, conservative commentator, on her web site:

    Image: Ann Coulter
    Jason Kempin  /  WireImage file
    Ann Coulter

    "The reason not to burn Qurans is that it's unkind — not to jihadists, but to Muslims who mean us no harm. The same goes for building a mosque at ground zero — in both cases, it's not a question of anyone's 'rights,' it's just a nasty thing to do.

  • Julius Scruggs, the president of the National Baptist Convention, in Kansas City, quoted on Fox4kc.com:

    Image: Rev. Julius Scruggs
    Lance Murphey  /  AP file
    Rev. Julius Scruggs

    "As a Christian pastor I don't advocate burning a Koran. I wouldn't want a Muslim to burn a Bible. There's a better way to disagree, if you want to disagree, than to publicly disgrace a religion by burning its holy book."

  • The Vatican's ''Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue'' statement:

    The "deplorable acts of violence" demonstrated on 9/11 "cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community." The 9/11 anniversary should be a moment "to offer our deep sentiments of solidarity with those who were struck by these horrendous terrorists attacks."

  • Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Sadeghi Golpaygani, according to Fars News, in Wall Street Journal:

    "The dangers of this despicable action are clear to all. It will ignite massive fires of anger and hatred toward America. The U.S. government and president will be held accountable if this happens in their country."

  • Brandon Hensler, Florida ACLU spokesman, to local media:

    "You can't pick and choose who's protected by the Constitution. People would like to see his (Jones') speech shut down, but that would just make him a martyr."

  • Televangelist Pat Robertson, on the 700 Club:

    Image: Pat Robertson
    Michael Smith  /  Getty Images file
    Pat Robertson

    "Can you imagine a pastor that is so egotistical that he would sacrifice the lives of missionaries and soldiers to go forward with it? … This guy is looking for attention. He's looking for publicity. ... I think it's horrible what this guy is doing."

  • Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, on her blog:

    Image: Michelle Malkin
    Steven Lane  /  AP file
    Michelle Malkin

    "Gen. Petraeus says (Jones') provocation endangers the troops. But what's in the Koran is far more of an inflammatory threat to American soldiers than any match with which to light it. What's in the Koran has inspired decades of bloody warfare by Muslim operatives targeting our troops, civilians, and Western infidels around the world. ... Instead of burning the Koran, Americans need to be reading it, understanding it, and educating themselves about the Koran passages, Islamic history, and jihadi context that brought us to this 9th anniversary year of the 9/11 attacks."

  • Statement from spokesman for U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron:

    Image: British Prime Minister David Cameron
    Pool  /  Reuters
    Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron

    "Primarily this is an issue for the U.S., but clearly the government's view is that we would not condone the burning of any book. ... We would strongly oppose any attempt to offend any member of any religious or ethnic group. ... We are committed to religious tolerance."


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