GAINESVILLE, Fla., Sept. 7 (UPI) -- A Florida congregation planning to burn copies of the Koran is "weighing" its decision after warnings of danger to U.S. troops, its pastor says.
The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville plans to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States by burning copies of the Koran, the Muslim holy book. Church officials said the event was a warning against what it considers threats posed by Islam.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Monday the event "could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," CNN reported.
"Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday," he said. "Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult."
Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Center, said on CNN Tuesday church officials are taking Petraeus's comments "very seriously."
"We have firmly made up our mind, but at the same time, we are definitely praying about it,"" Jones said.
"We are definitely weighing the situation. We are weighing the thing that we're about to do. What it possibly could cause. What is our actual message. What are we trying to get across."
He said he realized the action would offend Muslims but "we feel the message we are trying to send is much more important than people being offended."
Muslims are welcome to live and worship in America "as long as they ... obey the Constitution of the United States," he said.
He defended the planned action as sending a "message of warning" to Islamic radicals because "we believe we are dealing with an element we cannot talk to."
"I believe that most of the time, talk and diplomacy is the correct way. But I always think that once in a while, I think you see that in the Bible, there are incidents where enough is enough and you stand up," Jones said.
Plemon el-Amin, the imam of an Atlanta mosque, told CNN the pastor's criticism of Islam was "really quite uninformed."
"But in America, there is the freedom to be ignorant," Amin said. "The only problem is in the world, many people don't understand that particular freedom. So what he is doing is like shouting fire in a theater, in a world theater, and people are upset."