Reverend Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., has made quite a name for himself. As pastor of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center, Jones plans to commemorate the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 with a public burning of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
To date, it seems that the only religious leader that has not yet condemned Jones' plan is Jones himself, with everyone from the Pope to Angelina Jolie denouncing the plan. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has personally pleaded with Jones to cancel the event because of the potential for retaliatory violence against U.S. troops and citizens overseas.
Petraeus said Monday that images of burning Qurans “would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”
But one organization, the American Library Association (ALA), has decided to fight fire with free speech. Whether or not Jones goes through with his plan, librarians and concerned citizens will assemble on the steps of the ALA headquarters in Chicago, Ill., this Saturday at 1 p.m. for a public reading from the Quran to counteract the burning in Florida.
“Free people read freely,” says Barbara Jones, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “That is a fundamental principle of the American Constitution and a basic mission of public libraries. We don’t burn books, we read them.”