The imam leading an effort to build an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site said Friday that he has no plans to meet with a Florida pastor who has threatened to burn copies of the Quran (Koran).
"I am prepared to consider meeting with anyone who is seriously committed to pursuing peace," Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said in a prepared statement. "We have no such meeting planned at this time. Our plans for the community center have not changed. With the solemn day of September 11 upon us, I encourage everyone to take time for prayer and reflection."
The statement was an apparent response to the Rev. Terry Jones, who said he would put off plans to burn the Muslim holy book if he was able to meet with Rauf or other organizers of the Islamic center.
It appeared to leave open the possibility of a meeting but did not mention Jones by name or say specifically whether Rauf believed the pastor was a peacemaker who deserved a meeting.
Jones created outrage in the U.S. and around the world by threatening to have his small congregation burn the Quran.
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The anti-Islamic pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., had said Thursday that he would back off his plans for the Quran-burning based conversations with a Florida imam who, Jones said, offered to have the New York project moved.
Then Jones reversed course and lashed out at the local imam, Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. No firm deal to move the New York Islamic center ever existed.
In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, cleric Rusli Hasbi told 1,000 worshippers attending Friday morning prayers that whether or not he burns the Quran, Jones had already "hurt the heart of the Muslim world."
"If he'd gone through with it, it would have been tantamount to war," the cleric said in the coastal town of Lhokseumawe. "A war that would have rallied Muslims all over the world."
Muslims consider the book the sacred word of God and insist it be treated with the utmost respect.
Previously, Jones had not invoked the mosque controversy as a reason for his planned protest at his Dove World Outreach Center. Instead, he cited his belief that the Quran is evil because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.
Opponents of the New York City mosque argue it is insensitive to families and memories of Sept. 11 victims to build a mosque so close to where Islamic extremists flew planes into the World Trade Center and killed nearly 2,800 people. Proponents say the project reflects religious freedom and diversity and that hatred of Muslims is fueling the opposition.