The Quran-burning drama that had transfixed the nation and reached several corners of the world seemed to be resolved for a few hours Thursday, only to flare anew. Even as local, national and world leaders applauded the Rev. Terry Jones' decision to drop a widely criticized plan to burn the Quran, the Gainesville pastor later backtracked, saying he was lied to.
Meanwhile, a statement released late Thursday by nine South Florida pastors, including Tullian Tchividjian of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, appeared to criticize Jones' initial position. "The Bible does not condone this act -- which is neither Christ-like, loving nor kind -- and neither do we," said the statement.
Jones said he initially changed his mind about burning the Muslims' holy book on Saturday because a Central Florida Muslim leader promised him a New York mosque would not be built near Ground Zero.
Hours later, after Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida and the leader of the New York mosque denied such an agreement, Jones said Musri "clearly, clearly lied to us."
"Given what we are now hearing, we are forced to rethink our decision," Jones said. "So as of right now, we are not canceling the event, but we are suspending it."
Musri, who stood alongside Jones at an earlier press conference as the reverend canceled the book burning, said later he never promised that the New York mosque would be moved.
"I told the pastor that I personally believe the mosque should not be there, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it is moved," said Musri, who met with Jones at least twice this week. "But there is not any offer from [New York] that it will be moved. All we have agreed to is a meeting, and I think we would all like to see a peaceful resolution."
Jones, pastor of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center, had never invoked the mosque controversy as a reason for his planned protest. He cited his belief that the Quran is evil because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.
But, he said he prayed about the decision and concluded that if the mosque was moved, it would be a sign from God to call off the Quran burning. "We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans," Jones said earlier in the day. "We would right now ask no one to burn Qurans. We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it."
Jones had said he and Musri would travel to New York on Saturday to meet the imam involved in the Ground Zero project.
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