A religious soap opera is unfolding before the world’s eyes. Dr. Terry Jones, the noxious pastor from Gainesville, Florida who had planned the festive International Burn-A-Koran Day for September 11th, has called off the book burning event, according to news sources like USA Today. Imam Muhammed Musri apparently offered Dr. Jones a deal if he would back down.

It’s being reported that Dr. Jones has canceled "the planned burning of the Qurans" and is "instead flying to New York on Saturday to meet with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the planned New York mosque" because Imam Rauf may decide to build the Park51 Project somewhere else. But, the problem is the deal being reported has not been made. Imam Rauf is denying a deal has been made and he put out the following statement:

"I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. 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 and build peace and harmony."

Imam Rauf says he has not talked to Dr. Jones or Imam Musri.

Two theories: (1) Imam Musri said something that convinced Dr. Jones to go on a trip to meet with Imam Rauf, never said Imam Rauf would move the mosque, and Pastor Jones being thick-headed misunderstood Imam Musri so he said at the press conference the mosque was going to be moved. Or, (2) Imam Musri and Imam Rauf duped Dr. Jones into backing down.

Whatever the case may be, the freakout over at JihadWatch.org reveals how much members of the anti-Islam movement were looking forward to the burning even though they claim it was an unwise or tactically bad move. Some examples:

We are being had. Jones was threatened. Rauf has no intention of moving that mosque. What the hell is going on? -lilredbird, September 9, 2010 2:35 PM

From the story:

"Jones said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida told him that officials would guarantee that the mosque would be moved."

WHO is Imam Muhammad Musri, of Central Florida, and what does he have to do with Rauf or Cordoba? Can he speak on behalf of, or make decisions for, Rauf?? - Eleano, September 9, 2010 2:39 PM

NO WAY!

Color me jaded, but there is no way this story could be true. Ain’t gonna happen. Time after time, for 1400 years, the hudna trick has been played, a la Lucy holding the football, and the only winner is repeatedly Muslims.

I’ll keep watching the headlines, Robert, but this one is a bridge too far. -Fscarn, September 9, 2010 2:45 PM

I get the idea that this pastor is a half-bubble off plumb.

He doesn’t know what’s really in the Qur’an.

He’s like the Chauncy Gardner of the anti-jihad.

And he just got called out.

He got a phone call from someone with a foreign accent who called himself Imama;seldkfaaldkjfhdh dfhjsdfh and he started to make deals.

However, I have to say he’s give us a good idea…use the Qur’an and Mohammed drawing as weapons. It’s too easy given how fragile their little egos are. -winoceros, September 9, 2010 2:59 PM

Now that the threat of burning the quran has been opened as a tactic, it is bound to happen.
This whole situation is on a hair trigger, one spark and it will kick off, you can be sure the muslims are up for it .
It is going to happen and sooner would be better than later.
Premption or reaction? -defender, September 9, 2010 3:05 PM

He caved, is all that happened.

The FBI, Gates, colossal public obloquy.

Probably threats of legal harassment and prosecution.

I pity him. -gaius, September 9, 2010 3:08 PM

Is Jones crazy or crazy like a fox? In all his ramblings He did say that tolerance was a two-way street. Is he calling Rauf’s bluff on this?

Hmmm. - awake, September 9, 2010 3:43 PM

I officially declare that I will stop pointing out that Islam was founded by a mass-murdering pedophile if Islam agrees to move to Mars. -out of context, September 9, 2010 3:49 PM

Prior to this announcement, Dr. Jones had gained the attention of the class. The State Department had issued a "travel warning" for Americans. President Barack Obama said "This is a recruiting bonanza for Al Qaeda." And, Attorney General Eric Holder had spoken out against the planned burning of Korans and General David Petraeus as said it could endanger American troops.

News of Muslims shouting "Death to Christians" and burning American flags and plans by groups for activities to counter the burning of Korans were all being reported on.

The media and world had everyone tuned into this pastor’s plan to burn books (and still do). Even if the books do not burn on September 11th, Dr. Jones got what he wanted: a backlash of right wing Islamic extremism that he could say confirms his thesis that Islam is "of the Devil."

So, Shelley Phelps Roper, a leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, was right. The authorities "browbeat him" and he backed down "at the last minute." And, now if you’re an unapologetic Christian Dominionist or fundamentalist you can agree with Roper who said he would back down because he’s "an apologist" and "doesn’t serve God."

Many agreed the burning of Korans was an act of hate intended to inflame a group the Muslim population of the world. He clearly had a right to burn the books but many tried to dissuade him because of what could happen as a result. If only the world was as insistent against torture, rendition, and indefinite detention of detainees and war and occupation in Muslim-dominated countries in the same way they were insistent against the Koran burning because it would create a "recruiting bonanza for al-Qaeda" or lead to attacks on Americans.

The media gave Dr. Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center a gift. Not only did Dr. Jones likely experience an increase in sales of his End Times Bestseller "Islam is of the Devil," but the media also made it possible for his Burn-the-Koran Day to truly be an international day.

I’ll entertain the possibility that this could be some kind of a move to create this perception that Imam Rauf can prevent the Quran burning if he just moves the Park51 Project and Dr. Jones will do the Quran burning later and blame Imam Rauf for it if he doesn’t move the project to another location.

Now, one could argue Dr. Jones succeeded and never had to burn the Korans. That he called for an International Burn-a-Koran Day and seemed serious was enough to inflame certain parts of the Muslim World.

Part of his success was due to the fact that the media does not label individuals like Dr. Jones or others like Rev. Pat Robertson or Pastor John Hagee as Christian supremacists. In comparison to the history of white nationalism in America, dogmatic Christians are not labeled like white supremacists when they carried out racist actions or made racist speeches. Not being regarded as a Christian nationalist or a Christian power advocate, allows Dr. Jones to continue to mount the argument that Islam is a devil religion without having to answer to the Dominionist vision of America he promotes, without having to answer to the fact that he and his church followers believe we are living in End Times.

Mosque-haters had spoken out against the Koran burning. The leaders may have spoken out, but if you read their words, it was all pragmatic and tactical criticism. None disputed the hate speech behind Dr. Jones’ theory that "Islam is of the Devil."

What the world saw was a split between those who wished to be part of the mainstream anti-Islam movement in America and those who were willing to be part of the vanguard of the anti-Islam movement in America. In the past, Dr. Jones has stood in solidarity with other members of the vanguard like Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. Mosque-haters who decried the Koran-burning like Erick Erickson, Bryan Fischer, Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, and Bill Keller all would like to continue to gain notoriety, fame and fortune off their hatred for and "warnings" about Islam.

And, isn’t that really what it’s about in the end? Money. That’s why this guy never went anti-Semitic. That’s why he didn’t go after Judaism instead of attacking a religion that supports a lot of the cultural values he thinks Christians should stand for. That’s why he chose to be a crackpot against Muslims and not a nutcase against Jews.

Dr. Jones figured out long, long ago there is no money in hating Jews. Hating Muslims and condemning Islam, on the other hand, he realized can help cover the costs of keeping a worship center like the Dove World Outreach Center open.

Who knows how meeting with Imam Rauf will feed into his Dominionist agenda (or if he will even get a meeting)? I don’t. The world doesn’t. And, unfortunately, the show’s not over yet. Another episode in this religious opera has just begun.