Imam unmoved by Saudi criticism of NYC mosque

A Saudi Prince is against putting the centre and mosque close to 9/11 site.

New York: The imam co-leading a drive to build an Islamic community centre near the World Trade Centre has politely brushed aside a suggestion by one of his past benefactors that the project be moved to a different spot.

"While we respect the points of view of other interested observers, we plan to build the community centre in this location because we have been part of Lower Manhattan for decades and we want to better serve the needs of our neighbours of all faith traditions," Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said on Thursday in a statement.

Rauf was responding to a request for comment on remarks by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world`s richest men, who told a magazine based in the United Arab Emirates that he was against putting the centre and mosque close to the site of the September 11 attacks.

In interview excerpts published on Thursday by Arabian Business, Prince Alwaleed urged the centre’s backers not to "agitate the wound" caused by the 9/11 attacks by building so close to ground zero.

"The wound is still there. Just because the wound is healing you can`t say, `Let`s just go back to where we were pre-9/11,`"he said.

Prince Alwaleed`s opinions on the project are of note partly because his huge charitable organisation has contributed to Rauf`s activities in the past. In recent years, Alwaleed`s Kingdom Foundation has helped pay for academic conferences run by two non-profit groups affiliated with Rauf.