The Florida Imam brokering a deal with Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who planned to hold a Koran-burning protest in Gainesville, Fla., denounced the "ground zero" mosque project Thursday, saying its location just two blocks from ground zero is a "clear provocation."
Imam Muhammad Musri told reporters: "I like many Americans, Muslims and non, feel that the placement of a mosque near the Ground Zero location is unnecessary. And it has become a clear provocation to many people to be violent against mosques across the nation."
Musri praised Jones for "his courage and willingness" to take into consideration the safety of U.S. military personnel and Americans traveling abroad, and cancel the Koran-burning event.
He added that Jones' decision to step back from the Koran-burning protest that had been scheduled for Saturday was "in line with scripture to love your neighbor as yourself."
Musri thanked Jones and the members of his church "for making the decision today to defuse the situation, and bring to a positive conclusion what has become the world over a spectacle that no one would benefit from, except extremists and terrorists, who would have used this to recruit even more young people, impressionable people, to become future radicals."
Added Musri: "I want to send a message today to the Muslim world that the United States still and will always be the place where people of all faiths and all colors can co-exist in peace… that the rights of Muslims in this country are respected, and that of all other religions. As [an] American Muslim leader, I believe that this is the best place to live on earth. And I feel strongly about that.
The announcement by Musri and Jones that so-called "Ground Zero" mosque Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf had agreed to a meeting to discuss alternative locations appeared to catch Rauf completely off guard, despite the fact that Musri said he had obtained a commitment from Rauf's wife, Daisy Kahn, to hold the meeting.
Abdul Rauf issued the following statement to CNN: "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Qurans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other, nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."
Contrary to what Jones initially indicated, Musri said he had not yet confirmed Imam Abdul Rauf that he would be available for a Saturday meeting.
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