Gun-toting Florida church members believe Islam is demonic

The doors of the Dove World Outreach church were today locked to the hordes of reporters from around the world that have descended on Gainesville after pastor Terry Jones, 58, threatened to torch hundreds of Qurans on the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

The on-again, off-again plans to torch the Islamic holy books are currently off as Jones prepares to travel to New York.

Jones claims Islam is demonic because he says it encourages violence and terrorism, and ignores what he believes are Biblical truths. He has set out his claims in a book titled "Islam is of the Devil."

The church, which has some 50 members, is surrounded by TV cameras, broadcast trucks and reporters from around the world. Occasionally some of its members rush from the building, climb into their cars and drive off, refusing to talk to reporters.

A large sign that reads "Islam is of the Devil" in block red letters is posted outside the church.

"We didn't do this for publicity," said Jones's son Luke, 29, who is also a pastor. Jones has a stars-and-stripes tattoo on his wrist and a pistol slung from his hip. "I use the gun for protection," he told AFP.

"I don't know if we are going to get more members because we did what we did, but I think this was a very good idea because we made everybody happy," Luke Jones said.
A woman named Stephanie, also with a pistol strapped to her waist, walked outside the building answering e-mail messages on her smartphone. Her husband is Wayne Sapp, the church's second most senior ranking pastor and the person most in touch with the media.

"We have received 30,000 emails last two days," said church administrator David Ingram. "Messages of support and vague threats too, some saying that they will kill us and our family and that kind of things."

According to Ingram, "the telephone is ringing every minute, calls from all over the world -- everybody wants an interview with pastor Jones."

Across the street, a group of neighbours complained about the media attention the tiny radical church is receiving.

"Terry Jones you are the devil. Don't fly to New York, fly to hell," read a sign carried by Maria Mamatsios, 60, who lives two blocks from the church.

"Gainesville is a nice place," Mamatsios told AFP. "We respect people and we respect our Muslim neighbours. We don't know who is this Terry Jones, where he came from."

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