'Burn Koran' pastor slams 'unfair' UK ban

Controversial American preacher Pastor Terry Jones said he was disappointed to be barred from the United Kingdom, calling his exclusion from the country “unfair”.

The preacher sparked outrage when he announced plans by his Florida-based church to burn copies of the Koran to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America.

Speaking after the UK's Home Office announced it would not allow him to enter the UK, he insisted he was not against Muslims or Islam, only the “radical element of Islam”.

He told Sky News: “I have no intention of doing anything against British law. We feel this is definitely against constitutional rights to travel, freedom of speech.

“We believe that our visit there could be beneficial.”

He also had personal reasons for wanting to come to Britain, he added, since his daughter lives in England and his grandchildren are English and live in the country too.

“I feel this ban is very unfair,” he said.

A British Home Office spokesman said: “The Government opposes extremism in all its forms which is why we have excluded Pastor Terry Jones from the UK.”

He added: “Numerous comments made by Pastor Jones are evidence of his unacceptable behaviour.

“Coming to the UK is a privilege, not a right, and we are not willing to allow entry to those whose presence is not conducive to the public good.

“The use of exclusion powers is very serious and no decision is taken lightly or as a method of stopping open debate.”

Pastor Jones had accepted an invitation to speak to a group called England Is Ours next month.

He was to speak at a series of demonstrations against the expansion of Islam and the construction of mosques in the UK.

His son, Pastor Luke Jones, expressed surprise that his father’s visit had been banned.

“The talk of this has been around for a while, but we didn’t think it would happen, and we are shocked,” he said.

“We don’t think it benefits England – it’s pretty ridiculous. In England you have got radical Muslims demonstrating in the streets, and calling for the death of British soldiers, and nobody really does anything about that. I would call that hate speech.

“Our protests are against a book, the Koran – people are not our target. We should all be able to voice our opinion in a peaceful way.

“You are controlling what people say – how far do you let that go?

“We have had many rallies and demonstrations and there has never been any violence.”

A spokesman for England Is Ours said he hoped other members of Pastor Jones’s outreach centre would be able to visit and speak to the group if the controversial preacher was unable to get the decision overturned.

Barry Taylor, secretary of the activists’ group based in Milton Keynes, said Pastor Jones had planned to visit in mid-February to attend a number of meetings with other similar organisations.

He said: “I’m very disappointed. The whole object of the exercise is to have a discussion about the Islamification of the UK and just have dialogue about the problems.

“The idea isn’t to cause trouble or kick up a stink. These things do need addressing and people do need to speak about them. We shouldn’t be frightened about them.”

Mr Taylor added he had expected around 100 people to attend events organised for Pastor Jones including around 30 members of England Is Ours.

“It’s quite possible that other members of his outreach may be able to come,” he added.

“I understand Pastor Jones is planning some visits to nearby European countries and we will be able to go and visit him there. We’re very disappointed.”

Before Christmas, it was thought that Pastor Jones might attend an English Defence League (EDL) demonstration in Britain.

There were calls then for a bar on him entering the country after it was reported he had been invited to address the EDL at a rally in Luton in February.

In a statement on its Facebook page in December, the EDL said it had not invited Mr Jones to speak at the event, but he had approached them and they agreed in principle.

It said the EDL felt it inappropriate to offer him an invitation to the demonstration and he would not be attending.

It said: “We believe firmly in upholding the principles of free speech and free expression, and believe that he should have been free to do so, and protected by law enforcement authorities from those who would have tried to harm or kill him had he done so.

“At the same time, we strongly disapprove of burning the Koran, precisely because we believe in those principles of free speech and free expression.

“We do not believe the Koran should be burned, but rather read, so that people come to understand its inherent violence, supremacism, and hatred and contempt for non-Muslims.”

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