CP Middle East
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who is currently imprisoned in Iran for apostasy, preached to a congregation of 400 before he was arrested by authorities in Oct. 2009. (Photo: American Center for Law and Justice)
The organization Stand Up America Now, led and founded by Dr. Terry Jones, revealed on Feb. 22 that it will burn Qurans and images of the prophet Muhammad in protest of the Islamic religion, should Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani be executed for his Christian faith.
The American Center for Law and Justice announced on Tuesday, Feb 21 that the Iranian courts may have issued an execution order for Nadarkhani. Nadarkhani, who has been a pastor at a number of house churches in Iran for the past 10 years, has been imprisoned since October 2009, originally for protesting, but those changes were later controversially changed to apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims.
According to the Stand Up America Now website, the organization focuses on many social issues, with a special emphasis on standing up for Christian minorities persecuted in Islamic dominated countries.
On Feb. 23, 2012, Stand Up America Now, based in Gainesville, Fla., protested Islamic Awareness Month at the University of Florida, also located in Gainesville.
The organization's president and founder, Dr. Terry Jones, describes the planned burning of the Quran as a form of protest which would "obviously get Islam's attention," saying that Christians "cannot just stand by and do nothing."
"We have very little that we can do as a Christian community to protest the inhumane activities of Islam," Jones told The Christian Post.
"It's a type of protest to let the government know we are totally disgusted with their type of Shariah, with their activities. In fact, with the activities of Islam over the past 1,400 years," he added.
Jones, who is also the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, has previously sparked controversy over the Quran. In July 2010, Jones threatened to burn 200 Qurans on the 2010 anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City, New York. He deemed this controversial event "International Burn a Koran [sic] Day."
Although he did not end up burning the Qurans, his threat sparked international controversy, causing riots in the Middle East and Asia.
Jones sparked controversy a second time when he held the "trial of the Quran" on March 20, 2011 at his Gainesville Church. Jones burnt a Quran while inside his Church, sparking massive riots in the Northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-i-Shairf. Protesters attacked the United Nations Assistance Mission, killing ten U.N. officials, according to ABC News.
In Nov. 2011, Jones announced that he was running for the president of the United States, according to The Huffington Post. His candidacy has been widely overlooked by mainstream media.
Jones has also voiced his support for the U.S. Military's burning of Qurans in Afghanistan, which the U.S. government has deemed as an inadvertent destruction of the holy books, and for which President Barack Obama has since apologized for.
Thousands of Afghans have been rioting since Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012, when Afghan workers at the Bagram Air Field spotted Qurans and Islamic religious texts being burned.
The riots have taken place throughout Afghanistan, but have been especially focused in the Northern Baghlan province and the western Herat province.
Critics argue that Islamic countries do not respond well to Quran desecrations, as seen through this week's protests in Afghanistan, where two American soldiers and several locals have been killed in the riots.
Jones, however, hopes that a Quran burning will help the fate of future persecuted Christians.
Jones believes that Islam's goal is world denomination, while "our goal is world evangelism."
"We all know that Islam is like a big bully. Most of the time the answer to a bully is not to give in and not to run away, but to stand up to the bully," Jones said.
"I think Islam has proven itself as the ultimate bully and we definitely have to stand up and if we don't they are not going to back down," he added.
However, Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, calls Jones's protest a "stunt."
"It's unnecessary," Sekulow told CP. "It's an abuse of freedom. We have those kinds of freedoms here, but if you're going to do it for publicity's sake, it still doesn't make it right just because it's legal."
Sekulow argues that those who think the burning of the Quran will have a positive outcome are failing to recognize the complexities of the Islamic religion.
"It shows a lack of comprehending anything," Sekulow told CP, arguing that it is not only Christians who suffer persecution from radical Muslim regimes, but also fellow Muslims, including Sunni Muslims and other faith groups.
Also, the Muslims who often react violently to the burning of Qurans are from radical sects. As Sekulow points out, Muslims as well as Americans have perished in the riots pulsing through Afghanistan this week.
"If we're going to be standing up for religious freedom, we'd have to be standing up for the Muslims, too," he said.
Recent news regarding the plight of Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has caused both the U.S. White House and the U.S. State Department to voice their concern.
Now, the United States, Europe Union, 89 members of Congress, France, Great Britain and Mexico all stand behind the release of Nadarkhani.
Currently, Nadarkhani's wife, Fatema Pasindedih, and his two sons, Daniel, age 9, and Yoel, age 7, await further news on his fate.
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