US Muslim groups unite, see mosque near ground zero as test of rights
Muslim leaders, meeting at the New York site of the proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, speak of their 'unified stance' against 'religious intolerance and bigotry.'
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The Muslim leaders’ meeting comes just more than a week after the 9/11 observance at ground zero, after which groups either opposed to the construction of the mosque or in favor of it peacefully demonstrated in the streets nearby. The night of Sept. 10, a broad coalition called Neighbors for American Values held a candelit vigil in support of the center.Skip to next paragraph
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The construction of the mosque has also become a political battleground. Republicans Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, as well as Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada, the majority leader, have come out against the proposed mosque. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, and Sen. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois, the second ranking Democrat, have supported the Cordoba Initiative, as it is sometimes known.
Locally, the Republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino, has said he will try to take over the project through the right of eminent domain. The Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, says the group has a legal right to build the center and says he sees no reason to investigate the donors or funding for the building.
The controversy became even more heated when right before the 9/11 anniversary, a Florida preacher, the Rev. Terry Jones, threatened to burn copies of the Quran at his church in Gainesville. Mr. Jones flew to New York after announcing he had an agreement from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who conceived of the Park51 project, to move the mosque.
That announcement proved to be wrong, but Jones suspended the burning of the religious books.
However, the Council on American Islamic Relations reports that some American Muslims are finding burned copies of the Quran outside their mosques.
That’s one reason the groups meeting in New York have also called for a national week of dialogue starting around Oct. 22, when mosques will hold open houses. The purpose of the open houses, said the group in a statement, is to help allay tensions caused by Park51 and to “build bridges of understanding that unite and strengthen our nation.”