MULBERRY | A Florida pastor known for inciting international controversy for burning a copy of the Quran says he wants to burn nearly 3,000 of the Muslim holy books during a Sept. 11 event in Mulberry.
Terry Jones told The Ledger by phone he plans to burn the books at a rural Mulberry residence — one book for every person killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Jones's threatened burning of a Quaran in 2010 enraged Muslims around the world. After backing down from his planned demonstration in New York, Jones eventually burned a book at his Gainesville church, which 10 days later sparked riots in Afghanistan, where 20 people died, including seven United Nations workers.
He said Wednesday he will use the Mulberry property of Bill McKinnley for the burning while his church, Dove World Outreach Center, is looking for a new location in the Tampa Bay area, focusing on Pinellas and Manatee counties. The church sold its Gainesville property earlier this month. Jones said.
"We were looking for a place to do it," Jones said. "We checked out several places ... this individual called us and offered us his property if we had not found a place. So yeah, we took him up on the offer."
McKinnley said Wednesday he would not say whether the event would or would not be held on his property.
Some in Mulberry don't want Jones there.
"He's not welcome as far as I'm concerned," said Mulberry City Commissioner James Splaine.
"That guy in my book is just nothing but a troublemaker. You can't start messing with people's religions. Whether you like them or not, it's up to them to have their own religion."
Jones said he does believe there are some peaceful Muslims, but said that often changes as Muslims move from a minority to a majority. He said he hopes the Mulberry event will lead to sanctions against predominantly Muslim countries he said violate basic human rights.
"We would like to cause such an awareness that those countries would be forced to adopt at least basic human rights," Jones said, "where people who live there are not afraid to speak out, to be Christians or to be atheists."
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, takes issue with Jones.
"If this man and his congregation feel they are making the world a better place, they are certainly sadly mistaken," Potok said.
"In the case of this group, it absolutely denigrates all Muslim groups and all gay people in particularly vicious ways."
The Dove World Outreach Center's Mulberry event follows a recent visit to Polk County from another of the 1,007 groups the Southern Poverty Law Center considers hate groups.
The Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church protested at the graduation ceremonies of several Polk County high schools in May.
Lakeland is also home to a Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Group: Crew 38. The group describes itself as a group "for racially aware, racially proud White people."