Qur'an-burning pastor denied entry to Canada
Published Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:02PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 11, 2012 8:28PM EDT
A controversial American pastor whose congregation burned the Qur'an was denied entry to Canada hours before he was scheduled to appear in Toronto.
Terry Jones was held at the Michigan-Ontario border for four hours before being turned back.
“They searched our car, searched our luggage, tore it apart,” said Jones in a video posted on The Windsor Star website. “They called in the dogs to check for, I guess, drugs and other things.”
Jones was slated to appear at an event on the lawn of Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, to discuss the film "The Innocence of Muslims."
The film has been accused of inciting hate against the Muslim community and has resulted in violent protests across the Middle East.
“We think we have a very important message,” Jones was recorded saying, before the camera was turned off.
According to event organizer Allan Einstoss, Jones was told he was barred from entering the country when officials couldn’t verify whether or not he had a criminal record in the U.S.
The Canada Border Services Agency would not confirm if Jones was denied entry.
In a statement issued Thursday evening, the agency said every person seeking entry to Canada must demonstration that they meet the requirements to enter and stay in Canada.
"The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act clearly defines reasons for inadmissibility. Planning to attend an event in Canada is not itself grounds for being inadmissible,” reads the statement.
Jones was to debate Toronto imam Steve Rockwell on whether the film should be allowed to be shown in public. Jones ' group, Stand Up For America, has vocally promoted the video.
The event, hosted by a group called Canadians United Against Terror, will also include a memorial for Chris Speer – a U.S. sergeant killed by a grenade thrown by Omar Khadr in 2002.
News that Jones was turned back at the border elicited a mixed response via Twitter.
Plenty of users tweeted their support of the decision to keep the controversial Florida pastor out of Canada, while others argued it was an attack on freedom of expression.
Amin Elshorbagy, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, told The Canadian Press that Jones should have been allowed to air his views regardless of how extreme they may be.
"Personally I'm not really in favour of blocking or banning anybody," he said. "People have to be responsible for their own actions, but I definitely disagree with what he says and does."
Jones said he was “shocked” by the fact he wasn’t allowed into Canada.
“Freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press are the very foundation of our free society,” said Jones in a statement. “If we loose (sic) freedom of speech we will sooner or later loose our freedom as a nation and freedom as individuals.”
In a statement issued by Stand Up For America, the group said the rental car Jones was driving was thoroughly searched and the occupants of the vehicle were questioned repeatedly.
The group said that two protests signs, one that read “Koran burning site” and another that read “Islam is the new Nazism”, were confiscated.
Jones, a pastor in Gainesville, Fla., sparked outrage and international protests in 2010, when he threatened to burn a copy of the Qur'an on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
He stepped back from his threat after the U.S. military expressed concerns that the act would endanger the lives of troops overseas.
Jones’ congregation later burned a Qur'an on March 11, triggering more protests.
Jones said he has visited Canada twice, both times prior to 2010.
With files from The Canadian Press