JNN 25 April 2011 : The US pastor whose burning of a Quran sparked condemnation in Muslim world and deadly protests in Afghanistan has been briefly jailed in a heavily Islamic suburb after a court banned his protest outside a mosque.
A local judge jailed pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, and his associate Wayne Sapp on Friday after a court ruled that their planned protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, could lead to violence.
In court, Jones insisted that his right to protest against Islam was protected by the US Constitution. “The First Amendment does us no good if it confines us to saying what is popular,” he said.
But Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad testified that his department had received information about serious threats made against Jones from local residents, arguing that his protest could lead to violence if allowed.
Prosecutor Robert Moran argued that the protest had nothing to do with the First Amendment and that the community’s security and peace were at stake.
In the end, the jury sided with the prosecution and Judge Mark Somers set bond at the symbolic amount of a dollar each for the two pastors, which they initially refused to pay.
Following their refusal, both were escorted to a local jail. But local media reported that they changed their minds after spending about an hour behind bars and posted the bond.
Under the judge’s ruling, both Jones and Sapp are now prohibited by the court from going to the mosque for three years. But Jones was quoted by The Detroit Free Press as saying the two “will come back next week” to try to organize a new protest.
Dearborn is home to the largest Muslim community in the United States. The 2000 census found the city’s population to be 30 percent Arab-American.
Hundreds of local residents who rallied in front of Henry Ford Centennial Library late Friday denied they tried to silence free speech and called on residents to remain peaceful.
“We come here today not as Christians, not as Muslims, not as Jews, but as Americans,” said Osama Sablani, publisher of the Dearborn-based Arab American News and one of the organizers of the rally. “We have only one flag, and it is the American flag.”
Cea Noyes, a sociology and anthropology professor from Olivet College who took part in the rally, said Jones was trying to divide American. “What he is doing is just appalling,” she said.
Jones and Sapp made international headlines after their ceremonial “trial and execution” of the Quran by burning the Islamic holy book on March 20 at his Florida church that led to deadly protests in Afghanistan and severe condemnation against the outrageous act.
Seven UN staff were killed during one protest in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on April 1. Overall, more than 20 people have been killed.