(RNS) The imam behind the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero said Friday (Sept. 10) that he has no plans to meet with a pastor who has incited international outrage by plotting to burn Qurans outside his Florida church.
“We have no such meeting planned at this time,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. “Our plans for the community center have not changed.”
Rauf said he was open to meeting, however, “with anyone who is seriously committed to pursuing peace.”
The Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Fla., sparked a media frenzy, violent protests in Afghanistan and criticism from President Obama and other high-ranking officials for planning to burn Qurans on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
On Thursday, Jones postponed his bonfire plans, saying a Florida Muslim leader had helped broker a deal with Rauf to relocate the Islamic community center further from Ground Zero. But Rauf and Imam Muhammad al-Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida both said no deal had been made.
“We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony,” Rauf said in a statement Thursday evening.
It is unclear whether Jones will burn Qurans on Saturday or at a later date. Jones said Friday that he is waiting to hear from Rauf.
Obama reiterated his condemnation of the proposed Quran bonfire on Friday, saying it “threatens our men and women in uniform” and serves as a “recruiting tool” for Muslim extremists. “You don’t play games with that,” the president said. On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called Jones to dissuade him from burning the Qurans.
According to international reports, at least 10 people were injured—and one killed—in protests on Friday in Afghanistan, and the State Department issued a travel alert advising Americans abroad to “avoid areas where demonstrations may be taking place.”
Jones’ plans also contradict the American ideal of tolerance for all religions, Obama said on Friday. “The idea that we would burn the sacred texts of someone else’s religion is contrary to what this country stands for.”
“My hope is that this individual (Jones) prays on it and refrains from doing it,” Obama said.