Pastor Terry Jones, who famously threatened and later gave up on plans to host “International Burn the Koran Day,” will counter radical British Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary’s Thursday protest in front of the White House.
Jones told The Daily Caller he expects 1,000 of his supporters to show up. He also said he doesn’t plan to burn anything, including the Koran, or carry or show any pictures of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Illustrating Mohammed is considered by many Muslims to be insulting and offensive. Jones does plan, however, to attempt to engage Choudary in debate.
“The purpose of us going there is very clear: we are not going there to burn the Koran or display pictures of Mohammed,” Jones said in a phone interview. “What we are trying to address is the issue of Sharia law and the issue of the so-called moderate Muslim here in America. Those are our two issues that, if we have the chance, we will be publicly speaking on.”
When TheDC asked Jones if he was giving Choudary what he wants by showing up and creating conflict, Jones said, “well, we don’t really think so.”
“It’s always a catch-22,” Jones said. “If we come, or if a counter-protest is staged, it will automatically draw more attention to the event, thus drawing more attention to him. But, at the same time, we feel that something should be done and our message, I think, outweighs the extra publicity it might give him.”
To Jones, a moderate American Muslim is one who “obeys the U.S. Constitution.”
“He is free, here, according to our U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment to worship and build a mosque, to exercise his religion within the confines of the law any way that he desires,” Jones said. “But we, of course, do not at all welcome what we would consider to be radical Islam. That is, of course, Muslims who desire to institute Sharia law by trying to change or alter or replace our Constitution with Sharia.”
Jones says the U.S. government should let Choudary into the country and let him speak so the country can see what he stands for. It remains unclear when Choudary is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. and whether he will even be allowed entry.
Choudary is calling for the United States to fully implement Sharia law and has said the black flag of Islam will one day fly over the White House. He’s considered a joke by most media outlets in his home country, but terrorism experts told TheDC authorities shouldn’t take him too lightly. While it’s clear to observers in Britain that Choudary is a “publicity whore,” he does have a devoted and radical following. Many convicted terrorists have ties to his group, Al-Muhajiroun, which is now banned in the United Kingdom.
Jones’s staff at his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., told TheDC that groups such as Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Tea Party Patriots will be supporting him in his counter-Choudary rally, but TheDC has learned that’s not the case. A spokeswoman at AFP told TheDC that the conservative group will not have anything at all to do with the events on Thursday. Also, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler told TheDC there’s no way he or anyone from his group is helping Jones and “there’s no way we ever would, for anything.”
Fox News also reported that several moderate Muslim groups are staging their own counter-protest to Choudary’s rally.