By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – The Rev. Terry Jones, leader of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, plans to protest Islamic law Friday at the Islamic Center of America, 19500 Ford Road.
Jones, who gained national attention recently for threatening to burn a copy of the Quran, assumed leadership of the fundamentalist church in 1996. It has a membership of about 30 people, according to published reports.
Another group called the Order of the Dragon, based in northern Michigan, wanted to stage a similar speech at the same location. Jones applied for a permit after agreeing to participate in that group’s effort.
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said reports that Jones has been turned down for a permit are not true. He said part of the reason the permit had not been granted as of press time was that Jones was unwilling to pay a fee for the permit application, which is meant to cover any out-of-pocket costs, such as overtime for police officers who will be monitoring the area.
Jones said he will be joined by others who share his views and also will be speaking. Among them are Ahmed Abaza, who founded “The Truth TV,” a Christian television program based in California; David Grissom, a minister who is campaigning for mayor of Amarillo, Texas; and Nachum Shifren, a rabbi who ran as a Republican last year for the California Senate.
Jones said he has received notifications from imams and pastors urging him not to come.
“That will not deter us,” he said.
O’Reilly said there will be “adequate” police presence at the speech, and that officials will be watching the events carefully, including possible demonstrations by those who oppose Jones.
“I am asking people to exercise restraint,” O’Reilly said. “Don’t attack the group, even verbally.”
Jones said police wanted him to stage his protest in different areas around the city designated as free-speech zones, where permits are not required. O’Reilly said the spot Jones is planning to speak in is not such a zone because of space limitations.
The mayor said area churches will be holding Good Friday services, and that the planned protests in front of the mosque could pose a problem for attendees of those other churches.
O’Reilly said Jones will be given an opportunity to deliver his message. The mayor said despite the fact that Jones and other members of his group technically may be breaking the law by speaking at the announced location, police won’t make any arrests unless events get out of hand and people are put in harm’s way.
“If Pastor Jones comes here and violates the law, there will be consequences,” O’Reilly said.
Jones said he will not move his location.
Jones said his expectation for a large crowd would be an “understatement.”
“This has turned into a world, international event,” he said. “There have been reports of 40 or 50 news trucks.” He added there have been reports of “many, many” counterprotests.
“We received a letter from a serviceman in Afghanistan encouraging freedom of speech,” he said.
His planned speech also has provoked controversy, Jones said, including about 400 death threats and a $2.4 million price placed on his life by Hezbollah, a militant Shiite Muslim group.
“We’re not speaking out against Islam,” he said. “We’re speaking out against Sharia law and jihad.” Sharia is a code that governs both Islamic law and the Islamic way of life. Jihad is an Arabic term meaning “struggle.”
Jones said his speech will be peaceful, and that there will be no Quran burning.
He said the protest will go on as planned, regardless of whether he and his group are granted a permit. Jones said he believes his request will be denied.
“No matter what, we will come,” he said.
Officials at the Islamic Center of America did not respond to calls seeking comment for this story.