15 attend local rally of former Cape resident who burned Quran

Southeast Missourian/October 24, 2011

The Rev. Terry Jones brought his anti-Islamic message to his hometown of Cape Girardeau on Sunday night, but only a few showed up to hear it while others opted to stand outside with placards of protest.

The three-hour "Stand Up America Now" rally drew about 15 people to VFW Post 3838, though the rented meeting room was set up for 500. Outside, about five Southeast Missouri State University students stood along North Kingshighway with signs that had messages like "Freedom of religion means all religion."

Muslims stayed away, though beforehand they condemned Jones, who made headlines earlier this year when he burned the Quran.

During the rally, some attendees nodded in agreement when the night's first speaker, Usama Dakdok, called the Quran a "dumb counterfeit of the Bible" that is full of inconsistencies and contradictions.

Jones, who graduated from Central High School in 1969, was scheduled to speak later in the night about the moral, spiritual and economic condition of America. Jones is pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, a fundamentalist Christian church in Gainesville, Fla.

"We have nothing against Muslims," Jones said during an interview after he arrived Thursday in Cape Girardeau. "As Americans, they're allowed to be here, worship and build mosques. We have never been anything but peaceful."

What Jones does object to, he says, is Sharia law, which is the code of conduct or religious law of Islam. Sharia deals with many topics addressed by secular law, including crime, economics and politics, as well as other matters such as hygiene, diet, prayer and fasting.

But Jones worries that Muslims are slowly incorporating it into American life and he believes if it's fully realized it will have dire effects on America. He can talk for hours, and has, on the subject and his theories.

But Jones, who moved away from Cape Girardeau decades ago, first came to the national consciousness in September 2010, when he threatened to burn the Muslim holy book amid a plan to build an Islamic Center near the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

He initially abandoned his "Burn a Quran Day" plan after government officials warned him it could have far-reaching consequences and put U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan at risk of retaliation. Then, earlier this year, Jones put the Quran "on trial" and then, dressed in a judicial robe, ordered a copy of the text be burned.

The consequences government officials -- including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who personally called Jones last year -- warned about may have been realized. Some say Jones' act was a factor when a mob the following month attacked a U.N. compound in Afghanistan. Seven U.N. employees were killed. A week later, another protest in Kandahar left nine dead and more than 90 injured.

Jones has heard some say he shares culpability for those acts.

"I still think it was the right thing to do," he said. "America has taken somewhat of a backing-down position. When do we no longer exercise freedom of speech because something could happen?"

Local Muslims who were interviewed last week were largely dismissive of Jones, though they say his type of message can be dangerous.

"Personally, it's sad," said Shafiq Malik, 54, a Pakistan native who owns a local health care business. "What he's saying in the name of Christ is not actual Christianity."

Malik said Jones is doing to Christianity what terrorists do with the Islamic faith -- perverting it to suit his own agenda.

"What he did to the Quran offends us," he said. "It offends us really bad. But there's nothing you can do. If he's a hatemonger, he's a hatemonger."

Musa Wadi, a doctor at Southeast Hospital born in Jordan, said he didn't know who Terry Jones was until his wife reminded him. But he was disappointed at what he called "spreading hate."

He, too, was put off by the burning of the Quran.

"What if somebody burned the Bible?" he said. "We believe the Quran is the word of God. But we have good relationships with people in Cape Girardeau. I think he has no support in the Christian community."

Wadi's daughter, Haneen Wadi, is the president of the Muslim Student Association at Southeast Missouri State University. She said she received an email from Jones' organization informing her of Sunday's event.

While Jones' people say emails only go out to those who subscribe, Wadi said she has never signed up for email alerts from an anti-Islamic organization.

"They want attention," Haneen Wadi said. "I don't even know why he's getting this attention. I think he's a joke."

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