Quran-burning simply a publicity stunt, local Muslims say
September 9th, 2010
10:39 AM ET

Quran-burning simply a publicity stunt, local Muslims say

Editor's note: CNN All-Platform Journalist John Couwels recently sat down with members of the Muslim community in Gainesville, Florida, for their reaction to Pastor Terry Jones' plan to burn 200 Qurans, and his "Islam is the devil" campaign:

The Muslim community in Gainesville, Florida,  has been largely quiet on the hot-button issue of the planned Quran burning on Saturday that has triggered reactions from across the world.  They are not staging a massive rally, hesitant to give Pastor Terry Jones any bigger platform than he already has.

Some see Jones' actions as no more than a publicity stunt to sell his book.  Dr. Adil Kabeer - pictured above on the right - said Jones is no different from the Taliban, a group that has radicalized Islam in order to use the religion to gain power in Afghanistan.

Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Church, says he will burn 200 Qurans outside his church on Saturday to remember those killed during the September 11, 2001 attacks.  It's also an effort to call attention to his belief that Islam is an evil religion, a message he displays on signs across his church's property and has written in a book that he's selling.

Signs like these are showcased outside Pastor Terry Jones' Dove World Outreach Church where he plans to hold a Quran burning on Saturday.

"It's a shock that it is happening here in our community," says Muslim physician Rizwana Thanawala, who is married with two children.

"He's no different than the Taliban except it is my backyard," said her husband Dr. Adil Kabeer.

Kabeer, Thanawala, and other members of Gainesville's Muslim community spoke during a recent iftar dinner, the breaking of the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends this week.

Members of the Hoda Center mosque said they are not focusing on the pastor who they described as loaded with ignorance. Dr. Rizwana Mansoor says the burning of the Quran is nothing more than a stunt to promote his book.

"He is just seeking his 15 minutes of fame," Mansoor said, pointing out that his actions are not in line with his Christian beliefs.

Ismail Ibn Ali, president of the University of Florida's student organization Muslims on Campus, pointed out that burning Qurans is actually the proper way to dispose of a tattered holy book.

"The physical burning of the Quran is not the issue but it's the hatred behind it," he said.

Leaders across the world, including President Obama and the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, have expressed fear that Jones' actions could arouse radical Islamists.

President Obama reacts to pastor

Following the dinner at the Hoda Center, I was invited to the home of Thanawala and Kabeer, along with two other families and their children to continue the conversation.

The kids laughed while eating frosted cookies and we talked about the latest movies and the Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios.

Aman Kabeer, 13, pictured on the left, says he thinks many people equate Muslims with terrorists because of 9/11.

Then the conversation turned more serious.  The parents say their children have been on edge since Jones started his "Islam is of the devil" campaign and the planned Quran burning.

"I think our kids have been a little anxious about it," said Kabeer, talking about the couple's twin boys.

For Umana Ashfaq, the anxiety started when kids at her daughter's school wore the pastor's "Islam is of the devil" t-shirts.  Her oldest daughter Rijaab Mansoor, 16, said she was approached by two older women, both members of Jones church who were preaching in the park.   They asked her if she was Muslim, and she said "yes."  One of the women - who was wearing Jones' t-shirt - explained that they believe Islam is of the devil because Muslims don't believe Jesus is the son of God.

"It was upsetting, she was crying when I went to pick her up," Ashfaq said.  The incident caused her daughter to have nightmares.

The other children at the table said their friends joke around calling them "terrorists."

"Our children should never have to be subjected to this unreasonable behavior from anyone either in jest or otherwise," said Thanawala.

Her 13-year-old son Aman Kabeer said that much of it dates back to the 9/11 attacks.

"The thought process is they were Muslims [the 9/11 attackers], we are Muslims,  therefore we are terrorists," the teen said.

"We didn't move to America to be terrorists," Kabeer replied to his son.  He said God has been good to his family and America has given them a better life.

In an effort to show support for Gainesville's Muslim community, over 300 people from all faiths took part in a recent interfaith prayer service at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

"We stand together as a community to demonstrate that one small group of people bent on promoting hatred and misunderstanding does not represent Gainesville or the people of this nation," the Rev. Louanne Loch said at the service.

That service, and others like it, is evidence that some good has come from Jones' anti-Islam stance, according to Kabeer .

"The various interfaith gatherings has helped us find our roots in the Gainesville community,"  he said.  "We should thank him for allowing us to connect with Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhist, atheist and all people."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Florida • Islam • Muslim • Quran • United States

soundoff (378 Responses)
  1. SimpleLogic

    If 'x' does not equal 'D:
    What we do know about "X":

    X is not equal to: Religious Leaders from the same professed Faith denouncing wayward deviant adherents as a BAD example of what not to do and the course not to follow.
    However, X is equal to: Religious Leaders remaining silent when members of the same Religion carry out acts of Bloodshed, etc.

    Then if 'X' in not equal to 'D" then what is "X?"

    October 11, 2010 at 12:19 pm |

    tum logo ki maa ki chut, salo, sab kuch insaan karta hai, aur bhagwaan, allah aur god kahan se bich mein aata hai,,,, dharm ko dhaal kyon banate ho... apne dimag se kaam karo

    September 10, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  3. earle j. wagadorn

    i guess you "christians" haven't read your book either. jesus said of himself, that he didn't come to bring peace, but a sword. brother against brother, child against parent. that a person's enemies would be of his own household. just a question from my curious mind: who owns the greater responsibility for the actions of the thing or person created; the creator, or the created? Oh, and by the way, the only way to kill the faith is to kill the person with the faith. You without faith will do the killing and seek justification, but will not find it. My suggestion: all of you, think your foolish arguments and statements through to their logical ends, before you make them known. Your ignorance is embarrassing.

    September 10, 2010 at 12:35 am |
    • Watcher

      I guess this is your way of blaming christians for the murders that have happened since the advent of Islam against christians and jews. It's our fault. We asked for it. We should just cower like fools in the face of evil. We're so evil because we do not forgive them their unrepentent murders. We're so ignorant because we do not tolerate their abuses.
      Anyone who has done any study on the history of the wars between Islam and the Christian world looks upon those of your...leaning...as....suicidal.

      September 10, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  4. Christa

    thoughts on extremism around the world:

    September 10, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  5. Patriot

    Why is it that first ammendment rights don't seem to apply to Americans? We are supposed to be worried about offending a bunch Islamics that sooner slit your throat than live amongst you, but, meanwhile, they can insult you with their attempt to build a Mosgue at the very site where they attacked and killed Americans on our soil. Well screw all of you that are too blind to see what is staring at you. Building this Mosque is nothing more than a tribute to what the radicals have done and will serve to provide much more recruiting power than burning a few Qurans could ever do! And if Petraeous or anyone else is concerned, then do your jobs and kill the bastards rather than playing patsey and allowing our soldiers to die in vain while you worry about offending Islamics! Otherwise, tuck your tail and bring them home to await the next attack.

    September 9, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
    • Kate


      Show me where in the Const|tution, the Bill of Rights, or any of the Founders' writings it says that the First Amendment means "You can say what you like and those who disagree don't have the right to say what they think about what you say?"

      If some bimbo with a website can use the First Amendment to protest someone else using the First Amendment to exercise their religion (Park51, why shouldn't the First Amendment allow a community to protest the actions of someone else using the First Amendment to protest someone's religion (The WBC-admiring Joneses)?

      First Amendment means you have the right to say what you want to say. It also means everyone else can tell you if your head is up some dark passage saying it. Equally.

      Just sayin'

      September 10, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • Watcher

      Amen Brother. Why should we allow them to build a shrine where they murdered innocent people? To appease them? Appeasement only whets the appetite.

      September 10, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  6. Watcher

    We'll see what happens on 9-11

    September 9, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  7. Charlene from Canada




    September 9, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  8. Charlene from Canada




    September 9, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  9. Two dollars worth-inflation adjusted

    Firstly, let me say that some of the most well spoken and well thought out posts here have been from Muslims. Hats off to you guys. And as far as Mr. Jones is concerned, well he is just a member of the Snake-Oil Salesmen who have been around for a long time and has mastered the art of pushing our buttons to further his own agenda -which is taking care of Mr.Jones-and has absolutely nothing to do with any religious ideology whatsoever. Think about it , he has gotten the attention of the entire world and has dominated one of the most well read news sites in the world – he is one shrewd dude.
    And it seems that most people are on to him , but that the media, being the insatiable $$$'s whore that it is, just can't resist stirring up s$%t. Sorry for the crudeness, but I couldn't think of any other tactful way to say what needs to be said.
    Also, in everything there is wisdom to be had if you look hard enough. Two things come to mind:
    1, So many Americans people have come out in defense and support of Muslims – which is one more little but important step toward peace between all faiths.
    2. A serious and informative discussion of the Quran highlighting the similarities to the Bible has been discussed here.

    Very educational to everyone.

    And for the record, building a place of worship (Mosque at Ground-Zero) is in no way the same as destroying religious books. One act is constructive and promotes and upholds American values and the other does the exact opposite...simple as that.

    September 9, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Watcher

      The building of a mosque on "Ground Zero" does not reflect any American Values. It is Muslims putting up a place of worship SO THEY CAN DANCE ON THE GRAVES OF THOSE THEY MURDERED. And just as they did on 9-11, if the place is ever built, they will be dancing and laughing all the way to Mecca, saying "Look, the fools actually let us put a Mosque on Their Holy Ground. What idiots."

      September 9, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.