4th April, 2011
Before a Koran was burned at his modest church on March 20, the pastor Terry Jones held a self-styled mock trial of the holy book in which he presided from the pulpit as judge. The prosecutor was a Christian who had converted from Islam. An imam from Dallas defended the Koran.
Sitting in judgment was a jury of 12 members of Mr. Jonesâ€™s church, the Dove World Outreach Center. After listening to arguments from both sides, the jury pronounced the Koran guilty of five â€œcrimes against humanity,â€ including the promotion of terrorist acts and â€œthe death, rape and torture of people worldwide whose only crime is not being of the Islamic faith.â€
Punishment was determined by the results of an online poll. Besides burning, the options included shredding, drowning and facing a firing squad. Mr. Jones, a nondenominational evangelical pastor, said voters had chosen to set fire to the book, according to a video of the proceedings.
Mr. Jones said in an interview with Agence France-Presse on Friday that he was â€œdevastatedâ€ by the killings of 12 people in a violent protest in Afghanistan when a mob, enraged by the burning of a Koran by Mr. Jonesâ€™s church, attacked the United Nations compound in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. â€œWe donâ€™t feel responsible for that,â€ he told the news service.
Unlike the worldwide outcry that greeted the pastorâ€™s plan to burn 200 copies of the Koran on September 11 â€” which he ultimately abandoned â€” the event last week at the 50-member church was largely ignored by the news media.
As of 2 p.m. on Friday, the video of the Koranâ€™s burning on the church Web site had been viewed only 1,500 times.
â€œThe local strategy of everybody was to ignore this,â€ said the Rev. Lawrence D. Reimer, pastor of the United Church of Gainesville. â€œItâ€™s just a horrible tragedy that this act triggered the deaths of more innocent people.â€
Some church members were surprised by the violent reaction in Afghanistan on Friday, said Fran Ingram, an assistant at the church. She explained that it was decided in the weeks leading up to the burning that a jury of churchgoers and volunteers would hear both sides before deciding what to do.
In a statement, Mr. Jones demanded that the United States and United Nations take â€œimmediate actionâ€ against Muslim nations in retaliation for the deaths. â€œThe time has come to hold Islam accountable,â€ he said.
He also called on the United Nations to act against â€œMuslim-dominated countries,â€ which he said â€œmust alter the laws that govern their countries to allow for individual freedoms and rights, such as the right to worship, free speech and to move freely without fear of being attacked or killed.â€
Some members of the Dove World Outreach Center said they feared they would be attacked.
â€œWe have a huge stack of death threats,â€ Ms. Ingram said. â€œWe take precautions. I have a handgun. A lot of us have concealed weapons permits. Weâ€™re a small church, and we donâ€™t have money to hire security.â€
Before the March 20 service, Mr. Jones asked if the churchâ€™s Web site was streaming the event, according to the video. He was assured that it was. Mr. Jones then gave the â€œdefense attorneyâ€ the opportunity to leave.
â€œIt is not that we burn the Koran with some type of vindictive motive,â€ Mr. Jones said. â€œWe do not even burn it with great pleasure or any pleasure at all. We burn it because we feel a deep obligation to stay with the court system of America. The court system of America does not allow convicted criminals to go free. And that is why we feel obligated to do this.â€
On the video, a pastor named Wayne Sapp is seen igniting a kerosene-drenched copy of the Koran with a plastic lighter. Members of the church watch the book burn for several minutes while several photographers snap pictures.
Finally, Mr. Jones says, â€œThat actually burned quite well.â€
â€¢Culled from the New York Times