MIAMI - A Florida church said it plans to publicly burn copies of the Koran on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, prompting threats from Islamic groups and warnings the move will trigger a rise in hate crimes.
The Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Florida said on its Facebook page it will hold an "International Burn a Koran Day" on September 11, asking other religious groups to join in standing "against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil!"
"Islam and Sharia law was responsible for 9/11," pastor Terry Jones told AFP.
"We will burn Korans because we think it's time for Christians, for churches, for politicians to stand up and say no; Islam and Sharia law is not welcome in the US," the organizer of the burning action added.
"We've got many death threats from jihad groups, but we cannot react by fear and we cannot compromise our beliefs. Somebody must stand up," Jones added.
Reactions to the Koran burning announcement were swift.
Members of the Al-Falluja jihadist forum have threatened to "spill rivers of your (American) blood" and "a war the likes of which you have never seen before."
Mainstream Muslim groups also denounced the move and lamented the sentiments promoted by the Gainesville church.
"Unfortunately in (Florida) and nationwide, Islamophobia are actually on the rise," Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesman Ramsey Kilic told AFP.
"I'm more afraid of those who have anti-Muslim sentiments and may think this is a legitimate action and may want to attack a mosque or attack a Muslim on the street," he added.
However, Kilic said, "we are not taking any action to avoid this... we don't want to give attention to this, because that's what they want."
The Dove church's Facebook site, since the announcement, is rife with threatening messages and corresponding anti-Islam rants.
Besides the Koran burning ceremony, the Dove World Outreach Center also plans an anti-homosexual event August 2 outside Gainesville's City Hall. The "No Homo Mayor Protest" targets the city's first openly gay mayor, Craig Lowe.
The website also has for sale "Islam is of The Devil" T-shirts and books by pastor Jones.