By Guy Adams in Los Angeles, Wednesday, 23 March 2011
A fundamentalist pastor who drew international attention to his tiny Florida church by threatening to mark the anniversary of 9/11 by burning copies of the Koran has finally followed through on his promise, several months late and with only a small handful of parishioners in attendance.
Terry Jones oversaw the torching of a copy of the Muslim holy book on Sunday, after staging a mock “trial” in which it was found guilty of what he described as crimes against humanity. The “jury” in the case had heard arguments from a “prosecutor” and a “defender” of the Koran before sentencing it to “death by execution”. A copy was then put in a tray inside the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainsville, where Mr Jones preaches, before being set alight.
Mr Jones said the event was a success and “a once-in-a-lifetime experience”, despite the fact that just 30 people had bothered to attend. American Muslim groups took the view that the best way to respond to Mr Jones and his headline-prone followers may be to ignore them.
It was a far cry from September, when hundreds of members of the world’s media descended on Gainsville to witness Mr Jones carry out his original proposed stunt. President Obama had called the book-burning “a recruitment bonanza for al-Qa’ida”.