Terry Jones, the right-wing US pastor who made headlines by staging a Koran-burning ritual in 2011, torched copies of the holy book Saturday in a bid to have a Christian clergyman released from prison in Iran.
The burning took place in front of 20 spectators outside the Dove World Outreach Center, a church where Jones preached in at Gainesville, Florida. A depiction of Islam's prophet Mohammed was also set aflame and the whole incident was broadcast live across the internet, the Gainesville Sun reported.
We take no joy or pleasure in this particular act, the Blaze noted Jones as saying in the video. We pray that the Muslim community, perhaps through this act or perhaps through the many evangelistic aspects of Christianity and the reaching out to the Muslim community, they would somehow be set free from the deception of Islam, from the deception of Muhammad, from the death and destruction that Islam has caused since its very beginning.
The Islamaphobic pastor and a fellow clergyman delivered their speech, condemning the imprisonment of Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who is believed to be on death row for charges on apostasy and other religious crimes. Born a Muslim, the 34-year old evangelical convert was given the option by the court to embrace Islam and his refusal to do so led to his arrest in 2009.
Despite having given consent for burning the Koran, the pastor's church was issued a citation following a breach of the city's fire regulations, the Gainesville Sun said.
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Saturday's protest led to a worldwide backlash with several religious communities coming forward to denounce Jone's act of burning Korans. Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance, cited the incident as wrong and unwarranted, and that the act of burning the holy book was especially grievous to Muslims, Tunnicliffe said, according to the Christian Today.
Prior to the incident, Jones had threatened to burn the holy books, for which the Pentagon appealed not do so for fear of putting the lives of American soldiers at greater risk in Afghanistan, the Gainesville Sun said.
In March 2011, Jones carried out a similar situation that evoked violent protests in Afghanistan, thus resulting in the deaths of twelve people.