|Qur'an-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones and Toronto imam Steve Rockwell will face off on the front lawn of the Ontario legislature next week. (REUTERS/QMI Agency Files)
TORONTO - Get ready for a royal rumble between an imam and a pastor.
Officials granted a permit Friday for an event in which Qur'an-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones and Toronto imam Steve Rockwell will face off on the front lawn of the Ontario legislature next week.
The pastor will "talk about the 'Innocence of Muslims' movie and whether it's appropriate enough to be shown," said Allan Einstoss, who applied for the permit at Queen's Park.
"We also have people champing at the bit from the Muslim community who would like to debate or speak in rebuttal to Pastor Jones. It's a fantastic night for free speech."
The controversial event organized by two groups, calling themselves For Love of Charter and Canadians United Against Terror, is set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m., and Einstoss promises it will be the first of many events. He anticipates thousands will attend.
More details about how the debate will unfold will be made available in the coming days, he said.
Many may remember Einstoss as the man arrested at an August Al-Quds rally at Queen's Park for bringing his dog -- a mastiff by the name of Cupcake. Police suggested his presence might "incite" because some Muslims believe dogs to be unclean.
Frustrated by what he characterized as a lack of freedom of speech, he took it upon himself to apply for a permit on behalf of the organizing groups.
"Democracy is a delicate balance and it can be an ugly thing at times," Einstoss said. "Now that we've got the location secured, it's going to heat up and it's going to heat up very fast."
While Imam Rockwell could not be reached by phone on Friday, Pastor Jones, for his part, promised there won't be any book-burning during his appearance.
"We're not doing any Qur'an burning or anything like that," he said from a Gainesville, Fla., residence. "But it will still be controversial."
He said he will, however, be speaking about whether Islam is compatible with Western society.
Einstoss also mentioned that police contacted Jones's assistants, requesting information like whether the pastor will have a security entourage, and whether Jones will have a copy of the movie, and intend to screen the movie.
"It's not the business of the Toronto Police Service to find out whether or not someone is bringing something into Canada. It's the job of Canada Border Services Agency," Einstoss said. "Of all of the offensive books and movies with the opposite views of Pastor Jones -- supporting radical Islam -- I don't think Toronto Police has ever called anyone and asked them about what they're bringing into Canada."
A spokesman from Toronto Police could not be reached for comment.
Jones said he's not surprised by the heightened security worry.
"We have 400-500 death threats and (a) $6.4-million bounty on our lives, so I understand there is a higher alert -- and there should be," he said.
"We're going to be obeying and submitting to the law."