GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy said Wednesday he was determined to go through with his plan to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, despite pressure from the White House, religious leaders and others to call it off.
"We are still determined to do it, yes," the Rev. Terry Jones told the CBS Early Show.
Jones says he has received more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a .40-caliber pistol strapped to his hip since announcing his plan to burn the book Muslims consider the word of God and insist be treated with the utmost respect. The 58-year-old minister proclaimed in July that he would stage "International Burn-a-Quran Day."
Supporters have been mailing copies of the holy text to his Gainesville church of about 50 followers to be incinerated in a bonfire on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Kabul, took the rare step of a military leader taking a position on a domestic matter when he warned in an e-mail to The Associated Press that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan - and around the world - to inflame public opinion and incite violence."
Petraeus spoke Wednesday with Afghan President Karzai about the matter, according to a military spokesman Col. Erik Gunhus. "They both agreed that burning of a Quran would undermine our effort in Afghanistan, jeopardize the safety of coalition troopers and civilians," Gunhus said, and would "create problems for our Afghan partners ... as it likely would be Afghan police and soldiers who would have to deal with any large demonstrations."
Jones responded that he is also concerned but is "wondering, 'When do we stop?"' He refused to cancel the protest at his Dove World Outreach Center but said he was still praying about it.
"How much do we back down? How many times do we back down?" Jones told the AP. "Instead of us backing down, maybe it's time to stand up. Maybe it's time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior."