Florida Pastor Terry Jones on Saturday made good on his threat to burn the Islamic holy book, lighting a copy of the Koran on fire to protest the imprisonment of Iranian Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
Jones had threatened to burn the Koran and images of Muhammad back in February as a way to demand Nadarkhani’s release from prison in Iran. Nadarkhani has been jailed since 2009 following his arrest on apostasy charges for his conversion to Christianity and is reportedly facing execution.
Wearing an “Infidel” T-shirt, Jones burned a copy of the Koran and an image of Muhammad in a portable fire pit on church property late Saturday afternoon, the Gainesville Sun reported. About 20 people gathered for the event, which included speeches by Jones and another pastor calling for Nadarkhani’s release. The event was also streamed live over the Internet.
“We take no joy or pleasure in this particular act,” Jones said after the book was set afire, according to video footage posted online.
“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,” he said.
According to the Sun, the Gainesville Fire Rescue issued Jones a citation after the demonstration because despite having authorization for a burn, he didn’t have approval to burn books.
The Pentagon had urged Jones to reconsider his plan, citing fears it could put U.S. service members at risk.
Jones made international headlines in 2010 for his plan to burn hundreds of Korans on the anniversary of Sept. 11. He drew widespread condemnation, including from President Barack Obama, the Vatican and Gen. David Petraeus, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Jones ultimately canceled the event, though did burn one copy of the book in spring 2010, sparking deadly riots in Afghanistan.
An assistant pastor at Jones’ Dove World Outreach Center also burned a copy of the Koran in March 2011 and broadcast it on the Internet, prompting violence that resulted in at least 12 deaths, according to the Sun.
Watch Jones’ 40-minute event below: