Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Koran pastor issues imam challenge

Pastor Terry Jones is surrounded by reporters as he arrives at Laguardia airportin New York. (AP)
Pastor Terry Jones said he has postponed his Koran-burning protest (AP)

The pastor who planned an "International Burn-a-Koran Day" has publicly challenged the imam overseeing plans for a controversial Islamic centre in New York to start talks.

Pastor Terry Jones has flown to New York and hopes to meet Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf - on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US - to talk about unhappiness about the centre being sited close to Ground Zero.

He was forced to reconsider when Imam Rauf said he had no plans to meet the pastor although he was open to seeing anyone "seriously committed to pursuing peace".

Mr Jones said he had "a challenge to give to the imam in New York".

Standing outside his church, the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, he then handed over to KA Paul, a controversial Christian preacher who has been praying with the pastor.

Mr Paul gave out his own telephone number and that of another pastor and urged Imam Rauf to get in touch, either directly or through the media to discuss whether he was prepared to meet Mr Jones. Mr Paul said it was legally acceptable for the Islamic centre to be built near the Ground Zero site of the Twin Towers destroyed in the 2001 attacks but not morally acceptable.

US president Barack Obama said Mr Jones's plans had to be taken seriously because it could cause "profound damage" to US troops and interests around the world.

"You don't play games with that," he said and insisted that as commander in chief he had an obligation to respond.

The meeting between Mr Jones and the imam would come as the world remembers the thousands of people killed and injured when Muslim extremists hijacked four planes and flew two into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre and a third into the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers and crew tried to regain control of the aircraft.

Meanwhile, at least 11 people have been injured when thousands protested in Afghanistan over the plans.

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