A small group of Mulberry residents are organizing protests against a planned burning of nearly 3,000 Qurans at a home near Mulberry planned for Sept. 11.
Terry Jones, a Florida pastor known for sparking protests in Afghanistan after previously burning one Muslim holy book, said he plans to burn a book for every person killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The group, whose name says it all, has one message for the world: Not in Mulberry. “The bottom line is we don’t want people to think of Mulberry as a racist, hateful town,” said the group’s organizer, Suzanne Carter-Moore. “We are peace-loving and accepting and love each other.”
Carter-Moore, who lives in Lakeland but grew up in and works in Mulberry, first started organizing the group in July after learning of Jones’ plans. She and others started a Facebook page and have gone to organizational meetings. They say they know Jones has a First Amendment right to burn the books but don’t want people to associate Mulberry with it.
“I just don’t want Mulberry to appear like we are condoning his actions,” Carter-Moore said. “We want a unifying voice that says he does not represent the values of Mulberry.”
Jones’ church, Dove World Outreach Center, is no stranger to controversy. Since Jones first made national news in 2010 for threatening to burn a Quran, his church has been the subject of protests in Gainesville, where the church was located, and elsewhere.
Local protests can go a long way toward making sure a city doesn’t earn a reputation for a small group’s actions and put them in perspective, said the spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Amina Rubin.
“I think it’s important for that area, that city, not to get the reputation of agreeing with him,” Rubin said. “Not just to tell Muslims, but also to tell the whole country or the whole world, that this is not what our city is about.”
CAIR, a national Islamic advocacy group that promotes mutual understanding, generally tries to ignore Jones and others like him, Rubin said.
“He’s kind of part of a group of fringe people in the United States who are kind of making a name for themselves by doing or saying very extremist words or actions,” Rubin said. “These people thrive on the attention they get from that. We do our best to not play into what he is trying to gain in this.”
Carter-Moore, too, has weighed concerns over giving Jones more attention by organizing protests but she expects the exposure to pick up by Sept. 11 and thinks her group’s message is too important. “For Mr. Jones to come in, stir the pot of discontent and hatred and then leave it for us to pick it up, that is not right,” she said.
The group plans to rally on the corner of State Road 60 and State Road 37 in September and hold smaller “sign wavings” in Mulberry this month. The group is still looking for more members. They can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/notinmulberry.
See also “Quran-burning Pastor Terry Jones coming to Mulberry, despite protests”, WTSP 10 News, 16 August 2013