msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 12/12/2010 4:16:09 AM ET 2010-12-12T09:16:09

The controversial Florida pastor who threatened to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is facing backlash as he gears up for a February trip to the U.K. to take part in a rally organized by a far-right activist group.

Lawmakers and rights groups in Britain are calling for Pastor Terry Jones to be denied entry into the country.

The English Defense League announced Jones's planned appearance on Facebook last week, calling the event "The Big One" and saying Jones will join the February rally in Luton "to speak out against the evils of Islam."

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Jon Cruddas, a lawmaker who represents Dagenham in east London, said he'd pursue action in Parliament demanding that the pastor be banned from visiting the country.

"We have seen how Pastor Jones, with a very small congregation in Florida, created a firestorm by urging the Quran to be burned," Cruddas told Britain's Guardian newspaper. "We should not allow racial hatred to be whipped up in this manner in our country."

The Guardian noted that the last time the EDL held a rally in Luton, 250 supporters showed up and left smashed store windows and overturned cars in their wake. Police arrested 35 in connection with that rally, the report said, and 11 others at another rally in a different town on Saturday.

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On its website, anti-extremism organization Hope not Hate asked supporters to "stop the preacher of hate" by signing a petition asking the Home Secretary Theresa May to block Jones's entry to the U.K.

'Only extremists will benefit'
In an open letter to May posted to its site, the organization's director Nick Lowles said Jones's presence at the rally "will be incendiary and highly dangerous," encourage supporters of an anti-Islam cause to take to the streets and "cause concern and fear among Muslims across the country." The letter also deems the EDL to be the "single biggest threat to social cohesion in this country today."

"Only extremists will benefit from his visit and, as we know, extremism breeds hatred and hatred breeds violence," the letter concluded. "For these reasons we are asking you to prevent Pastor Terry Jones from entering the UK."

May said in a Sunday interview on Britain's Sky News that Jones "has been on my radar for a few months now."

"It wasn't clear that he was definitely coming to the U.K., but if it is now clear that he's definitely coming to the U.K., then of course this is a case that I will be actively looking at," she added.

May also pointed out that in her position, she "has the right to exclude people who are not conducive to public good or on national security grounds."

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British media reports noted that May denied entry to a controversial Indian Muslim preacher in June, saying entry to the U.K. is "a privilege, not a right.," the BBC reported at the time.

But Jones told the BBC that he has "no intention" of burning copies of the Quran in the U.K., and that his speech at the rally would be "on harmony, on the subject that Muslims are welcome in our country."

'They call for Sharia law'
Jones backed down from a threat to burn the Quran on Sept. 11, but has continued to speak out against radical Islam.

Last month, he led a few dozen protesters to the site of a proposed mosque near ground zero; he expressed sympathy for 9/11 victims' families, but also spoke out against the radical Islam he said was the cause of their deaths.

Video: Pastor cancels Quran burning (on this page)

Jones also told the BBC that he and his small church, the Dove World Outreach Center, "have no problem with Muslims — we have freedom of speech and religion — Muslims who want to make our country their country, obey our laws and constitution.

"We have a problem with them, which I believe you all have also, when they go on the street ... and they call for the death of the U.K., for the death of Israel, for the death of America. They call for Sharia law.

"They say they are going to turn Buckingham Palace into a mosque and the Queen must convert to Islam or leave the country."

But the controversial pastor also admitted to the BBC that he only had "somewhat limited" knowledge of the EDL, and that he "would describe them as a group who, I believe, in their words they want England to stay English."

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Video: Pastor cancels Quran burning

  1. Transcript of: Pastor cancels Quran burning

    CARL QUINTANILLA, co-host: Terry Jones , the pastor of a small church in Gainesville , Florida , planned to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 by burning copies of the Quran . On Thursday, after worldwide condemnation and appeals to stand down, Pastor Jones called it off. Pastor Terry Jones and his assistant pastor , Wayne Sapp , are here this morning. Gentlemen, it's good to see you. Good morning.

    Pastor TERRY JONES (Dove World Outreach Center): Thank you.

    QUINTANILLA: Lot of people wondering what you're doing in New York today.

    Pastor JONES: Yeah, we have come here with the hopes of speaking with the imam. We feel that we have somewhat of a common denominator in the fact that most people do not want the mosque near ground zero . And, of course, I assume all Muslims do not want us to burn the Quran .

    QUINTANILLA: So is there a meeting between you two?

    Pastor JONES: There is not. We have been trying to set up one.

    QUINTANILLA: Trying to set up meeting. There are voice mails exchanged. Is there -- what's the possibility...

    Pastor JONES: Yeah, we have -- we have a couple of people who are working on it who are mediating the situation.

    QUINTANILLA: But you came to New York in the hopes that a meeting would happen...

    Pastor JONES: Right, right.

    QUINTANILLA: ...not because a meeting's happen....

    Pastor JONES: No, there is no meeting. We just have that hope that one will take place.

    QUINTANILLA: The burning was scheduled to happen tonight...

    Pastor JONES: Right.

    QUINTANILLA: ...right around 6:00.

    Pastor JONES: Right.

    QUINTANILLA: Is it going to happen?

    Pastor JONES: We have decided to cancel the burning.

    QUINTANILLA: Why?

    Pastor JONES: Yeah, we feel -- 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. I believe that we have definitely accomplished that mission. Even though we have not burned one Quran , we have gotten over 100 death threats , we see what is going around in the whole world even if we do it. We feel a little bit -- if you're familiar with the story of Abraham , we feel a little bit like -- Abraham was also called to do something very crazy. I mean, God told him to go to the mountain and sacrifice his son. Of course, Abraham was much wiser than us. He told no one.

    Pastor JONES: Yeah. So he got to the mountain. He started to do it, and God told him to stop. So we feel -- we feel we have accomplished our goal. We were obedient. We feel that God is telling us to stop. And we also hope that with us making this first gesture, not burning the Quran ...

    QUINTANILLA: Yes.

    Pastor JONES: ...to say, 'No, we're not going to do it'...

    QUINTANILLA: Not today, not ever.

    Pastor JONES: Not today, not ever. We're not going to go back an 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 imanabout -- yeah, about the ground zero mosque.

    QUINTANILLA: So there are -- you can guarantee us today that there will never be a burning of the Quran at your church.

    Pastor JONES: I can absolutely guarantee you that, yes.

    QUINTANILLA: Wayne , is this -- Pastor Jones talks about an element of Islam being radical. Are you now saying that the religion itself is not radical in and of itself?

    Associate Pastor WAYNE SAPP (Associate Pastor, Dove World Outreach Center): I believe there are some teachings that are carried on throughout the entire religion. They are as -- as there are in denominations in Christianity -- there are facets in Islam as well that push one element more than others. But that element is still alive and well throughout the entire religion.

    QUINTANILLA: We've been criticized in the media, perhaps fairly, that we gave you a microphone and made you basically an international name, well-known in this country certainly, and that that was publicity for your church, that you've been toying with us with these on-again, off-again pronouncements; 'Is he going to burn? Is he not going to burn?' Was it for publicity?

    Pastor JONES: Absolutely not. We were 100 convinced -- 100 percent convinced that this was a -- this was a type of a -- of a mission. We believe very much that there is Shariah law , that there is an element that is -- that is very, very radical. I am of the opinion it is much larger than our politicians and our news media would like for to us believe. And I believe that we have -- we have -- we have well, well proved that point by the reaction worldwide.

    QUINTANILLA: You arrived at La Guardia last night amid lots of security. The security around here this morning has gotten very intense. You've gotten 100 death threats , you've said. You're a reviled man and you're a wanted man in some places.

    Pastor JONES: Right.

    QUINTANILLA: How much of that is part of this decision? Did -- were you scared into it?

    Pastor JONES: No. No, no, we already -- we definitely did not realize that all of this would take place. Of course not. But we knew that if we went in this direction that our life could be threatened or would be threatened, we could possibly even get killed. I think the fact that we changed this decision -- we felt as though God was telling us to do this. I don't believe that has changed the death threats against us.

    QUINTANILLA: Right.

    Pastor JONES: I believe that we have already went too far to change that.

    QUINTANILLA: If this mosque is still built, which you clearly oppose, you still will not reverse your decision, you still will not burn the Quran ?

    Pastor JONES: We will definitely not burn the Quran , no.

    QUINTANILLA: Bottom line for the church, Wayne , is this going to create more members for your church or result in fewer members?

    Assoc. Pastor SAPP: Well, one of the things I'm hoping that this creates is that there are strong passions in religion, and people really need to get back to the text of the Bible, the text of the Quran . What do they -- what do they actually believe? What is in there? Or are they following an element that probably really God did not want us to follow?

    QUINTANILLA: Well, you made some news this morning, gentlemen. We appreciate your time coming in.

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