The Dove World Outreach Center, a non-denominational church in Gainesville FL, is planning to mark this year's anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with a little bonfire of Korans, the holy book of Islam. They even have a Facebook page with a mission statement to justify their actions:
"On September 11th, 2010 we will burn the Koran on the property of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil!"
The church, which also protests against issues such as homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and abortion, has decorated it's front lawn with signs proclaiming "Islam is of the devil!" and it's pastor, Terry Jones, has even authored a book with that title.
According to Jones, the organizers got the idea from another Facebook event, "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" earlier this year.
In an article released by Religion News Service (RNS), Jones said that protests are key to the mission of his church.
"We feel, as Christians, one of our jobs is to warn," said Jones, and that the goal these and other protests are to give Muslims an opportunity to convert.
Since the Facebook page went up a week ago, Jones said people have been sending him Korans to burn.
Response from Florida's Islamic community has been relatively muted so far. September 11 this year falls within the Eid al-Fitr holiday when Muslims mark the end of fasting for the holy month of Ramadan. RNS reports that local Muslims are planning to use the feast as an opportunity to share Islamic traditions and Qurans with the church members and the wider community.
"We don't want to do anything that would be reactive," said Ramzy Kilic, communications director of the Tampa Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
In the Orlando Sentinel, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said,
“American Muslims and other people of conscience should support positive educational efforts to prevent the spread of Islamophobia."
He said CAIR’s research shows that anti-Muslim bias decreases when people have access to accurate information about Islam and are able to connect on a personal level with ordinary Muslims.
Terrorism in the US has not been a one-way street either and the Islamic community in Florida has been one of it's recent targets.
On May 10, a pipe bomb exploded in the Islamic Center of Northwest Florida in Jacksonville. No worshippers were hurt, but Kilic said the planned burning of Qurans could escalate tensions in the area.
1) image on the "International Burn a Koran Day" Facebook page.
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