Serial provocateur and Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones is planning yet another event, but this time local officials are trying to block the event from taking place.
Jones intends to hold a rally outside Dearborn, Michigan’s Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the country, on Good Friday.*
The pastor gained international attention last year with his plans to burn the Quran on September 11, but backed down under pressure from everybody from the President to Gen. David Petraeus to Sarah Palin. On March 20, he oversaw the burning of a Quran at his small Gainesville, Florida, congregation, an event that incited riots in Afghanistan in which 20 people were killed and dozens injured. A demonstration in Kandahar overran a U.N. office, killing seven foreign U.N. staff and five protestors earlier this month.
Jones said he is protesting radical Muslims, as well as jihad and sharia law. “We have made it very clear that we are coming there with very, very peaceful intentions,” he told Detroit’s WXYZ-TV news. “We will be armed. We do have concealed weapon permits.”
Citing the threat of violence, a Detroit prosecutor has filed a petition in district court to stop the gathering planned for this week. A hearing will be held Thursday afternoon. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is asking the court to require Jones to post a peace bond, an infrequently used legal construct where a person posts money to ensure good behavior and public safety, the Dearborn Press and Guide reports.
Officials have also asked the court to order Jones to hold the rally not at the mosque but at a designated Dearborn “free speech zone”, such as City Hall, designed for public demonstrations, but Jones has refused to change the location of the Quran burning. If he goes through with his plans to rally at the mosque, he may be allowed to proceed without a permit as long as the event doesn’t spill onto private property or onto the public right-of-way, a scenario that Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly said is unlikely.
“This is not based on the content of the speech that is being proposed or presumed, it’s based on a threat to hold a protest where they were denied a permit and they need a permit,” Judge Mark Somers, who will preside over the hearing, told the Dearborn Press and Guide.
Meanwhile, local religious leaders are coordinating a solidarity campaign to counter Jones’ visit. They are collecting signatures for a petition condemning Jones, and conducting meetings, a public forum, and a press conference on Friday morning.
The Michigan anti-Sharia group, Order of the Dragon, first sought permits for the demonstration, but decided to no longer participate in the event after meeting with interfaith leaders.
“It’s absurd,” Michael W. Hovey of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit told the Dearborn Press and Guide, ” There is no Sharia law in Dearborn or anywhere else in the United States. I mean it’s not a conversation to be had. It’s ridiculous.”
* This piece has been updated since its original publication.