A Muslim activist from Atlanta said Monday he has decided to postpone a debate over a sign at a Gulfport Baptist church until after the Christmas holiday.
Pastor Chris Ashley of Cowan Road Baptist Church said the sign that reads "Jesus is God, Allah is Satan, Joshua 24:15" was posted because he said Satan is using the name Allah to deceive people and prevent them from following the "one true God" of the Bible.
Bilal ibn Jimmy Stroud, who also is a motivational speaker and relationship counselor, said he would be ready to debate the sign in early January, but would be glad to meet Ashley as early as Sunday to sit down and talk as men of faith. He said he called the church and asked for the debate after he saw a photograph of the sign on Facebook.
Ashley didn't respond to a message left on the church answering machine, which also said the debate was on for Saturday at 6 p.m.
Stroud said he sent Ashley the same message he sent the press, but would allow local Muslims to deal directly with Ashley to reschedule the debate.
"I took it upon myself to challenge this bigoted comment by challenging him who said it in a public debate," that message says in part. "My intention was and will never be to cause harm or offense to anyone there in the Gulfport community. I only wanted to challenge the Pastor's statement: Allah is Satan. Jesus is God.
"Since December is a very important time for Christians around the world, for they celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him forever) I felt it in bad taste to hold such a contentious gathering during that time."
Stroud said some posts on the church's Facebook page also led him to decide to postpone the debate. He also said he had not been threatened.
"This postponement is not an indicator of my fear or hesitation in challenging the Pastor's vicious statement, but rather to allow an already tense environment to subside and to give the planners involved more time to plan an event that is fair and objective for all concerned," his statement said.