Florida pastor Terry Jones, whose Koran-burning triggered riots throughout the Muslim world in 2011, was arrested late Wednesday on his way to another Koran-burning event. Jones was arrested by police in a small town Polk County, Florida, as he drove a pickup truck loaded with thousands of kerosene-soaked copies of the Muslim holy book, ready to be burned at the stake.
Jones had applied for a permit to conduct the event at a local park, but was turned down by officials in Mulberry, Florida. A report in a local newspaper quoted Mulberry Mayor George Hatch as saying that Jones did not represent him or his town's citizens.
"I just wish the world would realize this is one man, and these are not the feelings of this community," he said. "I'm angry at him for bringing that negative limelight to our city. We think we have a great little city, and this man is bringing ugliness to it."
On his Facebook page, Jones said that the burning was a way to commemorate the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. On his website, Jones lists a dozen reasons why the Koran should be burned, among them, in Jones' opinion, the fact that "Islam puts societies in bondage;" that Islamic teaching produces oppression and violence; Islam does not recognize or accept the separation of religion and state; Islam persecutes Christians, including Coptic Christians in Egypt and Maronite Christians in Syria; and Islam threatens free speech by seeking to suppress any criticism of it by the west.
“On September 11th, 2013, to remember those who were murdered by radical Islam, and to send Islam a very clear warning, that they will not get their foothold in the American Constitution as they have done in Europe, we will be holding an International Burning of 2,998 Korans, representing one for each individual who was murdered in the September 11th, 2001 attacks," Jones wrote on his site. "Radical Islam will not be stopped by the appeasing attitude of the present Obama Administration, but only by a show of force and determination.”
Jones has not yet commented publicly on his arrest or the thwarting of his plan.
In 2011, dozens of people were killed in Afghanistan during violent protests over the burning Korans by Jones. A suicide attack also targeted a NATO military base in the capital Kabul after protesters overran a UN mission in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, killing seven foreign staff in the worst ever attack on the UN in Afghanistan. Four more were killed in the Mazar-i-Sharif riot when Afghan security forces turned their rifles on the rioting crowd.
At the time, responding to the violence, Terry Jones said he did not feel responsible for the violent protest at the United Nations compound in Afghanistan or for the deaths that followed. Instead, he insisted the violence proved his point. "We wanted to raise awareness of this dangerous religion and dangerous element," Jones said. "I think [today's attack] proves that there is a radical element of Islam." As for the 11 dead, which included seven U.N. staffers and guards, Jones told "Nightline" anchor Bill Weir, "We do not feel responsible, no."
U.S. President Barack Obama said the killings in Afghanistan after Jones' Koran burning were "outrageous" while calling the burning itself an act of bigotry.
"The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry," Obama said in an official White House statement.
"However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity. No religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people," Obama insisted. "There is no justification for such a dishonorable and deplorable act. Now is a time to draw upon the common humanity that we share, and that was so exemplified by the U.N. workers who lost their lives trying to help the people of Afghanistan."