December 13, 2010
The English Defence League has cancelled a planned appearance by church pastor Terry Jones at a rally in February. Photograph: John Raoux/AP
The US pastor who planned a mass burning of the Qur'an on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks this year will not be attending a far-right rally in the UK, it emerged tonight.
The English Defence League said at the weekend it was "proud to announce" that Terry Jones would be speaking about "the evils of Islam" at its rally in Luton in February.
However it issued a new statement on its website today saying Jones was no longer welcome because it had "reservations" about some of his views.
"The EDL can confirm that Pastor Jones will not be attending the English Defence League demonstration against sharia in Luton on 5 February," it read.
EDL spokesman Guramit Singh said the decision had been taken after the group carried out "further research" on Jones and discovered he held some "homophobic and racist" views.
This evening Jones, a pentecostal preacher who runs the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, denied he was homophobic or racist, adding that the EDL had bowed to pressure from the government and media. "Of course there are issues they do not agree with us on just as there are issues on which we do not agree with them. But I was coming to speak on the dangers of radical Islam and I think on that there is agreement."
Jones said he still planned to come to the UK in February but would not be attending the EDL rally in Luton.
Tonight Nick Lowles, from anti-racist group Hope Not Hate, said a campaign to persuade Theresa May to ban Jones would continue. "We don't trust Jones or the EDL so we will continue to call on the home secretary stop this man coming into the country."
The home secretary has the power to exclude or deport Jones if his presence in the UK could threaten national security, public order or the safety of citizens, or if she believes his views glorify terrorism, promote violence or encourage other serious crime.
Jones made headlines earlier this year when his plans to burn copies of the Qur'an caused widespread alarm.
Barack Obama warned Jones that his actions would boost al-Qaida and put US citizens and soldiers at risk. The president's intervention is believed to have persuaded Jones to call off the stunt with just a day to spare.
The EDL claims to be a non-racist, peaceful organisation. However, demonstrations over the past 18 months have attracted support from a number of known rightwing extremists – from convicted football hooligans to members of violent rightwing splinter groups.
Many of its protests have descended into violence and racist and Islamophobic chanting, and during its last march in Luton, 250 EDL supporters rampaged through an Asian area, attacking people and damaging property. On Saturday, 500 people marched in Peterborough, leading to 11 arrests.