Pastor Terry Jones poses inside the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, April 2, 2011.
Credits: REUTERS/PHELAN M. EBENHACK
The film, The Innocence of Muslims, has sparked international outrage and a series of deadly protests that have killed more than 30 people around the world.
But Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, in Gainesville, Fla., said even though he has not yet seen the film, he his currently trying to obtain a copy.
Jones wants it screened at a debate and panel discussion he is set to attend in Toronto next month.
“When you live in the western world, this is the price you pay for freedom of speech,” he said. “You will hear things that you do not like, that you do not agree with, that will anger you and will insult you. That is just the way it is.”
Jones, 61, gained international attention in 2010 for his plan to burn Qur'ans, the scripture of the Islamic religion, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
He backed off those plans but burned a Qur'an in April 2011 in Gainsville, Fla., and was fined $277 by the local fire department.
He said that he’s not coming to Toronto on Oct. 11-12 to provoke Muslims, but to engage in a debate about the more radical elements of the religion.
“The West has to realize there is a very radical element ... of Islam, and it hates freedom of speech and any other religion than Islam. I think that is something the West needs to come to grips with.”
He thinks that the film, which purports to tell the story of the life of the prophet Mohammed, depicts his “perverse” and “violent” life, Jones said.
“I have seen the trailer and it is not complimentary,” he said. “There is no doubt about that. I think it is very accurate and historical.”
Jones has been invited to Toronto by a group calling itself Canadians United Against Terror. But the location of the event is in some doubt because the group is having trouble booking meeting space, he said.
“We have experienced this very often,” Jones said. “Whenever we get ready to do something, and we rent a room somewhere, automatically the hotel or facility begins to get death threats or bomb threats. Then, of course, the hotels back down.”
Muslim Canadian Congress board member Sohail Raza said he would welcome Jones if he comes to Canada and would even invite him into his home to discuss and debate Islam. But he worries that Jones’ attempt to use the controversial film to make a point about Muslim extremism will end badly, he said.
“We can have a civil dialogue if he’s coming to Toronto,” he said. “I would welcome him in my house even. As far as historical accuracies are concerned, I don’t think he or I are historians.”
Raza said Jones might be surprised that he has more in common with Muslims than he thinks.