Pastor Terry Jones made headlines and created an international stir when his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla. announced its plan to hold what it billed as the “International Burn the Koran Day” on the 9th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Everyone from President Obama to General David Petraeus urged Jones to reconsider, saying that the act was not only unwise, but would potentially put American troops at greater risk abroad. Indeed, even though Jones ultimately backed down, riots occurred in certain parts of the Muslim world resulting in deaths.
All this over an obscure pastor in north Florida with a miniscule church membership of under 100.
Jones talked with The Daily Caller yesterday evening about all the hoopla surrounding his aborted Koran burning:
The Daily Caller (TheDC): You’ve been talking about the Koran-burning thing for at least a couple of years now. Why do you think it took so long for the media to pick up on your plan?
Terry Jones (TJ): I don’t really know — maybe they did not think we were serious about our plan. We had a sign up in the yard ‘Islam is of Devil’ since last July. As for Koran-burning, we just started that about seven weeks ago when we first went public with that on Facebook.
TheDC: What’s it like having the media on you on a regular basis?
TJ: Very stressful. It was definitely very stressful in one sense and, in another sense, I don’t know how they portrayed it [the plan to burn Korans] – I didn’t watch all the reports. In fact, I watched very few of the reports. There was not much time. But, it was having them here that gave us the opportunity to send forth the message that we thought was very important – the fact that there is a radical element of Islam that we need to keep an eye on and take it more seriously. It is larger and more determined that we would perhaps like to admit.
TheDC: Do you think the media was fair in how they covered it?
TJ: I did not watch very much of what they actually covered. I would think, in general, they were fair, they were okay. I think there were definitely certain aspects where they tried to deal with bigger issues before trying to get personal and, of course, that is a tactic: instead of looking at what the person is saying, trying to pick out something that can discredit the person. If you can discredit the person, belittle the person, you can have a better opportunity of abhorring or discrediting the message. But, I think, in general, they were okay.
TheDC: How does it feel to have the President of the United States so upset about something you’re planning to do?
TJ: I got a call by the Secretary of Defense and some people spoke out – in other words, they all realized that radical element of Islam, what Islam was threatening. They have definitely dealt with those threats very seriously that, if we were to go through with our Koran-burning, that the radical element of Islam would retaliate. So, I think, of course, whether people wanted to admit it or not, just that involvement and the level of government already tells you: with certain elements of Islam, we definitely have a problem. We need to watch it, we need to monitor it. We have to decide how much do we back down or when do we draw a line.
NEXT: Does Pastor Jones believe a moderate Islam exists?
TheDC: Is there such a thing as a moderate Muslim?
TJ: I think there definitely is, yes, and I always make that difference that our campaign, our concern was aimed at that radical element, which, I said, is actually much larger than our government and the news media [want to admit], and much more dangerous. But, we made it very clear that we have freedom of religion and freedom of speech in America and that the moderate Muslim is more than welcome to build mosques and worship. That was never actually an issue – the whole thing was aimed at the radical element. As far as the moderate element Muslim, it was aimed at them to stay moderate and don’t get caught up in that radical element.
TheDC: What made you actually call off the burnings?
TJ: There was a couple of factors – when you had the president speak out, when you had the generals speak out, when you have people like the Secretary of Defense that call you and other people that you can, of course, not ignore’s voices, you must take them seriously. Obviously, they know things that I do not know. They are at a much different level than I am at. I took that very, very serious.
What actually, finally, finally did it was as all of those voices began to speak, and we took that into prayer, and ask through prayer what we were supposed to do with our message. The message, of course, became much louder. We know by prayer that God gave us the example of Abraham. I’m sure you know the story: Abraham was called upon to sacrifice his son, which, of course, was much more radical than us burning the Koran. Actually, Abraham was more than willing to do it. He went up on the mountain and he got out his knife. He was completely ready, but, at the last minute, God stopped him and provided him with another offering.
As we prayed about it and took into consideration the things that the people had told us, we really felt like the story of Abraham. It wasn’t necessary for us to burn the Koran. We felt like we had made our point, but we hadn’t actually broken the law and had done nothing wrong. Just the mere threat of the burning of the Koran set forth violence around the world. We felt that we should not go through with it. We felt that we had accomplished our mission and it wasn’t necessary to go any further.
NEXT: Has Pastor Jones read the Koran?
TheDC: Have you read the Koran?
TJ: I never professed to have read the Koran. I have read certain passages.
TheDC: Is there any particular passage that stands out at you?
TJ: No. I just know in general that the Koran denies the basic fundamental doctrines of Christianity: Jesus being the Son of God, crucified, resurrected, dying for our sins. Jesus as himself is the only way. The Bible talks about itself as being the only book. Those are the things I know are important to us.
TheDC: Any thoughts on the Imam in New York allegedly canceling his plans to move the mosque?
TJ: I think it would be a tremendous gesture [for him to move the mosque]. We actually canceled the Koran burning. We hope that that will send a little bit of a signal that the American people, as a whole, do not want that mosque, and, as a whole, Muslims did not want us to burn the Korans. We hope that he would do that [move the mosque]. We are actually still in the process of trying to get a meeting with him [Ground Zero mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf] to try to talk to him about that subject.
TheDC: How do you feel about Donald Trump’s offer to buy the mosque building?
TJ: I think that was very good of him. I think that would make everybody happy. I think it’s a very good idea.
TheDC: After the ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day’ happened, the FBI suggested that the person who was behind it go into hiding. Have they contacted you about possibly going into hiding?
TJ: No they have not contacted me and we definitely have no plans of going into hiding. We want to do just the opposite. We want to continue to speak out on this issue and on whatever issue God puts before us. We have no plans of going into hiding.
TheDC: With the whole media storm that happened around this, who was the worst reporter to talk to?
TJ: I don’t know, really. There was a guy, I don’t know his name, on CNN – I thought he was one of the worst. I actually didn’t mind the questions. Some of the people, though, I felt, were kind of belittling. Others were a little bit aggressive. I didn’t mind any of the questions – I’m not an expert and if I didn’t know the answer, I just say, ‘I don’t know.’ I didn’t think that was really fair at times.
This only happened one time, but, and I don’t even know who that was but one interview was so bad that the guy would yell at me and insult me, finally getting me to just stop the interview and walk off the camera.
TheDC: Who was the best reporter to talk to?
TJ: There were several of them from CNN that were good – I think in general, maybe Fox. They seem to be pretty good at letting you say what you believe and letting you answer questions.