Qur’an-Burning Pastor Says It’s Time “To Hold Islam Accountable”

For the Qur’an-burning Terry Jones, the murders of UN workers and others in Afghanistan proves his point: that Islam is a violent religion.

Jones apparently sought such a response. “There was somewhat of an awareness that there could be a violent reaction,” he told a British news service today.

In a press release distributed through the Christian Newswire service, Jones issued a statement defending his Qur’an burning on the grounds that the resulting violence in Afghanistan proved that “the time has come to hold Islam accountable,” adding that “Islam is not a religion of peace.” He demanded that “Muslim dominated countries can no longer be allowed to spread their hate against Christians and minorities” and that they “must alter the laws that govern their countries.” 

When Jones was threatening to burn the Qur’an last year, other Islamophobic activists patted themselves on the back because they condemned his Qur’an burning as crossing some line that they would never cross. As I wrote at the time, about what I called “the utter ordinariness of demeaning Islam:”

That ordinariness, and the ordinariness of accepting it, is why an evangelical like Joel Rosenberg can on the one hand denounce the Qur’an burning but in the same breath write, “I believe those who follow Islam are mistaken and misguided and need to leave Islam and receive Jesus Christ by faith as their personal Savior and Lord.” It’s why Joe Lieberman can say that burning the Qur’an is “inconsistent with American values” yet stand shoulder to shoulder with John Hagee, who has said, “Islam in general—those who live by the Koran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews,” and whose entire worldview is predicated on vanquishing Islam. Or why Sarah Palin can say burning the Qur’an is “antithetical to American ideals,” but equate it in provocativeness to “building a mosque at Ground Zero.” Or why she can defend Franklin Graham’s insistence that Islam is an “evil and wicked religion.”

Although Jones’ Qur’an burning was an act other Islamophobes might reject, the notion that Islam is satanic, as Jones insists, is actually fairly commonplace in anti-Muslim propaganda. Jones’ anti-Muslim activities date back to 2009 in the Jacksonville area, when he and his co-pastor, Wayne Sapp (who burned the Qur’an last week) first posted “Islam is of the devil” signs outside the church, and Sapp’s daughter was suspended from school for wearing a “Islam is of the devil” t-shirt.

Jones and Sapp are hardly exemplars of peaceful religion. Prior to founding Dove, they pastored a church in Cologne, Germany. According to local news accounts during coverage of Dove’s 2009 anti-Muslim activities, former congregants, including Jones’ own daughter, claimed Jones and his wife left Germany after being confronted about improprieties in the church structure, including diverting church resources for profit, demanding that church members work for the church without pay, and threatening that God would damn them if they failed to obey. Jones own daughter claimed the church abused its members, including forcing teenagers to work 12-hour days. She told the Gainesville Sun in 2009 that she spoke out “with the hope of helping others leave what she calls a ‘cult’ that ‘forced us with oppression to be obedient.’” 

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email