By Rob Sachs for VOR
The Koran-burning Florida pastor was denied entry to Canada on Thursday. We ask him about the experience and examine his views on free speech and Islam.
Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Center, screened the movie “Innocence of Muslims” on September 11th, 2012 and is known for his public Koran burning. One of the reasons he was given for not being allowed to enter Canada was a fine he had received in Germany for using the title “doctor”, though he received an honorary doctorate of divinity in 1993. He was planning to speak at the Canadian event “Freedom Showdown”, where he would have spoken on the topic “Islam is not compatible with Western society.”
Voice of Russia’s Rob Sachs interviews Terry Jones on his views on hate speech.
So, can you clarify for us what happened when you tried to go to Canada?
Pastor Terry Jones: I tried to cross the border there, but we were stopped and detained. They searched our car, did a very through search of that. They went through all of our luggage, and removed all our clothes, going through that, went through all of our computers. They called in the drug unit, the dogs to come and sniff for drugs. After that they took us in, to the Canadian office there, where we were in the detention rooms, three different times, each of us, Wayne and myself, altogether of six times, we were questioned. We were there for a total of five hours. After these five hours, they refused us entry into Canada. I think that it was a very bogus setup, I think the reasons that they had were very poor. The main reason that they had for not allowing me in, was a fine that I received several years ago in Germany for using my “Doctor” title that was issued to me in 1993 by the California Graduate School of Theology. I used that title while I was there in Germany, but they said I was not allowed to use it and they fined me. But later on, we took them to court and that particular ruling was overturned and they allowed me to use my title, which they found to be legal. And they allowed me to use that title. That was the major excuse they used not to allow me into the country.
And there was an honorary title, correct?
Pastor Terry Jones: It was Honorary Doctor of Divinity, correct.
Now the reason you were going to travel to Canada was to debate, precisely the Innocence of Muslims, just the validity of the film and stuff. What was the purpose of your trip?
Pastor Terry Jones: At first, we were going to Canada to a type of debate or round table there but the people who put the conference on, the group called the Canadians United Against Terror they were not able to obtain a room because of fear, as you may be aware of, of course, any time you speak out against Islam, anything connected to Islam is a definite fear. People are really intimidated by Islam, Islam tries to intimidate people. So, at first, it was supposed to be a type of round table, discussion, debate. They were not able to find a room, a facility that would be rented to them, so it was moved to a park there, to a local park and there was supposed to be a type of open-air conference, open-air speaking.
I wanted to mention your statements about Islam in general. I think, many people would disagree with you to categorize the whole religion in one way. Certainly, there are elements of radical Islam, such as there are elements of radical Christians. There are elements of any radical major religion seems like. Why do you not distinguish between radical elements of Islam and mainstream Islam?
Pastor Terry Jones: Well, I believe that one thing is not only true. I believe that radical Islam is different, or Islam itself is different than any other religion. There are many religions, but Islam is basically the only religion that also has an attached governmental governing agency. So that makes it definitely different. Radical Islam is different from any other type of religion. You mentioned, maybe comparing it to radical Christianity. Radical Christianity would be, let’s say, only Christian groups who are radical in their doctrine, in their beliefs. But that’s quite different than radical Islam. Islam is not only radical in its beliefs, its radical in its actions. In other words, with Islam there is attached violence, thereat and intimidation, as we see happened around the world when we criticized Islam. And at the conference in Canada, I was going to speak on the subject of free speech and on the subject that Islam is not compatible to Western society, because Islam, or especially radical Islam, doesn’t tolerate criticism of Muhammad, the Quran or Sharia. In a free-thinking society that is one of our major foundational stones, criticism, or let’s say, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press. And those types of thing, Islam doesn’t tolerate.
Again, I think people would distinguish between certain elements. I feel like you would find a lot of Islamic scholars who criticize and think about Islam in certain ways, but also I think there are things in any religion that are sacrilegious and offensive for one way or another. Christians would find someone going into a church and dumping holy water on the ground as sacrilegious. It’s the same as depicting the Prophet Muhammad is sacrilegious. Why aren’t certain things acceptable to be sacrilegious in one religion vs another?
Pastor Terry Jones: Well, of course, there are things that you pointed out – Muhammad and Muhammad’s life. Muhammad led a violent life, I believe, a very perverted life, he married a six-year old girl, had sex with her at nine. He was definitely a very violent individual. After his death in 632, he commanded his followers to cleanse the Arabian Peninsula from all non-believers. There is no doubt that I should point these things out. They are insulting aspects to believers of the Quran but it’s just the way it is. When you live in a free society and you have freedom of speech, freedom of speech is a very important aspect of our society and it must be protected. Christianity has often been criticized, we had had the Bible burnt at our church there. We had people pull up at our driveway and burn a Bible. There were also movies made about Jesus that were definitely not complimentary. So, definitely, those things also happen concerning Christianity but you do not see Christians, or let’s say Mormons, Hindus or Buddhists, if their religion is criticized or they are insulted, you don’t see them promoting or breaking out violence. And that’s, I think is the difference.
I think if you look at who was protesting, most observers would say that it was a small part of the population and also a lot of violence specifically was organized there using an incident. Speaking specifically about the violence after The Innocence of Muslims was released over the Internet, there was a terror, not necessarily even organized terror. But besides, I want to touch again this issue of hate speech, why as a pastor who is promoting, you know, religion and thinking about, finding love, finding God, finding ways to be at peace with yourself, you seem so critical about other religions. It seems like there are things that a religion or church would do, it seems like finding good and our fellow man, that most religions look to do. Why are you so outspoken against other religions?
Pastor Terry Jones: I understand, but I wouldn’t classify what we are saying as hate speech. I mean if you look at the Bible you’ll actually have both ends.
Why are you burning a Quran? If someone saying “I don’t do hate speech” why are you saying “I find a secret, I want to burn it”, which is basically saying I spit on your beliefs. Doesn’t it account as hate speech to spit on other people’s beliefs, to burn their holy book?
Pastor Terry Jones: Well, I don’t really believe so. If you look at the Bible, you’ll see both things –Jesus talking about loving your enemies, doing good to those who persecute you and hate you. But you also see a time when Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. You see a time in the Old Testament when a new king was appointed over Israel he would go up to the high places and tear down the altars of the old gods. We see our mission to a certain degree as a prophetic warning, we are tying to send a warning concerning the radical Islam, concerning Muslims who live here in our Western society, who are not willing to honor and obey and respect our Constitution, who want the institute of Sharia. You see worldwide, while indeed, Muslims worldwide are a problem and they are definitely moderate Muslims who have a problem with that as the so-called radicals who were supposed to be the minority begin to speak out and cause violent acts. We don’t see a large outcry from moderate Muslims.
I think you’ d be mistaken in that fact. I think, we saw lots and lots of moderate Muslims speak out against violence after 9/ 11, after these attacks in Libya, there was a huge demonstration, in support of the Ambassador Stevens that was killed there, by moderate Muslims. I’m not sure why you are not seeing this things happen as well? You are not following that?
Pastor Terry Jones: I really don’t see that large outcry. Even here, after 9/11 I didn’t see that large outcry. I see no restitution being done, for example, as I said, I lived in Europe for thirty years. And during that time I lived in Germany, I’m well aware of the Nazi era, the concentration camps and what happened there. And Germany, right now, even 50 years later is still apologizing, still making restitution, still making financial restitution. You don’t see any of that in the Muslim community. You don’t see a large outcry, that they actually rebuilt the memorial of 9/11. You see no financial restitution. You really don’t see that outcry because you have to understand a little bit the Islamic religion. It has a doctrine so called taqiyya which allows them to be two-face, which allows them to lie to us. They in their synagogues promote the acts of terrorism.
In their synagogues? Anyway.
Pastor Terry Jones: Sorry, in their mosques.
I think we are not talking about the same facts here, so I’d like a kind of move on, as I don’t think we will be able to have a discussion, for we are differing on the facts. I have this fundamental question. If you believe that Islam as a religion has elements of it, that you feel like fermentate, that you application is to set out a warning. What do you think should happen? Are you advocating or anyone who is a Muslim to stop being Muslim. What should happen in a perfect world? What would you like to see happen to the Islamic faith?
Pastor Terry Jones: I would like to see a very clear message go, and that’s the message we’re trying to give to the Muslim community, let’s say for example here in America. Our message to them is that if they’re here legally, they’re welcome to America, they are protected under the First Amendment – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press. They can practice their religion, but what of course they can’t do in a non-Muslim-dominated country, already raises a huge question. The thing that we expect from them here is to honor and obey and submit to the Constitution and not to try to institute their own laws, rules and regulations, in other word Sharia. What they do try to do as they gain in numbers, what they’re doing in Europe. As I said I lived there for thirty years, I saw the rise of Islam there. If they’re willing to honor, obey and submit to the Constitution here and obey our laws, integrate into our country – in that sense we’ll have no problem.
I think most Muslim Americans would agree with you that they are here to obey the laws of the land, they are here to be upstanding citizens just like any other citizens of other religions. What they would ask of you, not to offend them by advocating for burning their holy book or for promoting movies that are sacrilegious. If you could hold up that end of the bargain, if they said “we would do their best as other religions do to be good citizens of the US if you do not do things that openly offend us”. And we would not do things that offend our religion. Why can’t everyone respect each other’s own practices and move forward?
Pastor Terry Jones: Well, I’m not sure how large the majority is. I certainly do hope there is a large majority of Muslims in America who want to do exactly as you said, who obey our Constitution. I know that even in America, also in Russia and Europe there is a movement here in America, there are many Muslim imams who want like to institute Sharia. In Europe it’s already a big problem, in England it’s a big problem. So if there is a large majority here that want to do this, then, of course, as I said, they are welcome. As far as insulting their religion, there we cannot make a promise, because we must be able to speak our mind and exercise our freedom of speech and we feel that certain elements of Islam are very damaging and very dangerous. And we feel that Prophet Muhammad led a perverted life. Then I think we must have the right to speak that out. Because freedom of speech and the press and religion that is the every foundation of a Western free society and those things can’t be limited. So, actually, being insulted is just part of being in a Western society that believes in free speech.
I think that you’re correct in that. You have free speech as an American but I think that, as a way to further dialogue perhaps there are other methods that are more effective. But you certainly have those rights and I appreciate you taking a time out and speak to us today, to talk about your points of view.