Reverends and imams speak at the ICA press conference at 10:30AM Friday April 22, 2011. At center is Imam Qazwini of the ICA, to his right Imam Elahi and Imam Mardini, respectively.
Dearborn–April 22–The overcast morning of Friday April 22 was one that began with the ominous likelihood of violence. Despite the religious significance of the day (Easter to Christians) â€œPastorâ€ Terry Jones had planned to burn the Qur`an directly in front of the biggest mosque in the United States as an act of provocation. As the day turned out, however, Jones was prevented through last-minute legal wrangling from going through with what would have been an incendiary act on several levels. The city of Dearborn feared an outbreak of violence, as evidenced by the police presence at the mosque.
But as the day began, religious leaders from the community did not know the burning would be prevented–they thought that Jones might go through with his plan, and they spoke en masse in the auditorium of the Islamic Center of America, speaking one by one against Jonesâ€™ message of hate, bigotry, and intolerant ignorance.
Present were many news channels and outlets–the ICA room chosen for the press meeting teemed with reporters, looking a little bit like the White House briefing room.
The speakers one by one spoke a message of tolerance–and the theme of all their speeches was that Terry Jones is in fact an extremist and his act of burning the Qur`an is rooted in his deep ignorance, and his behavior stands in stark contrast to the behavior and message of Jesus (as).
The symbolism of Jonesâ€™ attempt to burn the Qur`an on Good Friday was not lost on the Christian reverends who spoke–all of them expressed their dismay at such an act of hatred being committed on a day which should represent the directly opposite message.
Imam Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America functioned as the moderator of the event, one by one introducing the many speakers who (literally) joined hands to protest Jonesâ€™ planned act of hatred.
The mayor of Dearborn, Jack Oâ€™Reilly, spoke very fluently about the event, pointing out the need to balance the rights of people against one another–while a man in America has a right to protest, the churches local to ICA (which have stood where they are for 50 years) also had a right to perform their Good Friday services in peace. He pointed out Jonesâ€™ attempts through internet advertising to bring hundreds if not thousands of people to his planned protest, which contradicted his application for a permit to protest which listed only five or six protesters.
The mayor gave perhaps the strongest Christian argument against Jonesâ€™ planned behavior, citing the Popeâ€™s decree that Islam is a valid religion, and that Catholics should treat their Muslim brothers and sisters with respect. Oâ€™Reilly also cited Bible passages which he said described Jonesâ€™ behavior, of inciting fear in people and then asking for money, which Jones had done.
Most of the Christian ministers and reverends who spoke questioned Jonesâ€™ title of â€œpastor,â€ pointing out the nature of his message as being contrary to the essential teachings of his religion.
One reverend said â€œToday is Good Friday… the message of today is about love, not exclusive love, but unconditional love. Love God with all your heart and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.â€ He pointed out that the deeper issue in Jonesâ€™ protest is the issue of racism.
Mustapha Turk of IONA said that if Jones had read the Qur`an he would not burn it because the Qur`an has praises of Jesus (as) on almost every page. One reverend begged the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan not to react with violence to whatever scene might unfold later in the day.
Several of the Christian ministers pointed out the burning of churches during the civil rights struggle as being similar to Jonesâ€™ attack on Islam.
Imam Qazwini perhaps put it best when asked whether he had tried to communicate with Jones.
â€œI met [him] last night at Channel 2 where we were both guests, and I invited him not to protest, but to come inside and have a dialog with Muslim leaders.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think he is sincere, or logical,â€ said Imam Qazwini.