Islamic centre near Ground Zero to include other faiths: Cleric

The proposed Islamic centre near Ground Zero will include separate prayer spaces for people of other faiths, including Islam, Christianity and Jews, the controversial cleric behind plans for the facility said on Wednesday.

New York: The proposed Islamic centre near
Ground Zero will include separate prayer spaces for people of
other faiths, including Islam, Christianity and Jews, the
controversial cleric behind plans for the facility said on Wednesday.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wrote in The New York Times
today that the Islamic centre near Ground Zero will have
separate prayer spaces for people of many faiths to pray.

"There will be separate prayer spaces for people of
many faiths to pray", according to the Imam, who noted that
the centre will also include a multi-faith memorial dedicated
to the nearly 2,800 people killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Imam Rauf wrote that the attention surrounding the
plans for the USD 100 million centre just blocks from the site
of 9/11 attacks "reflects the degree to which people care
about the very American values under debate: recognition of
the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship."
After returning to New York following a two-month trip
to the Middle East, Imam Rauf has said that he intends to
continue with building the mosque near Ground Zero a
location, which the majority of Americans oppose.

"We are proceeding with the community centre, Cordoba
House," he wrote in an op-ed piece in The Times.

"I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for
many reasons," he underlined.

While many have seen the name of the Islamic Centre -
Cordoba House - as symbolising the Muslims entry into Spain,
the cleric pointed out that the name was chosen because it
signified peace.

"Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain
where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle
Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by
Muslims," he wrote.

"Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding
among all religions and cultures," he noted.

Imam Rauf said the centre is coming up with the
support of the downtown community, government at all levels
and leaders from across the religious spectrum.

"More important, we are doing so with the support of
the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders
from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners,"
he wrote.

While the majority of New Yorkers oppose building a
mosque two blocks away from the World Trade Centre, the city
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has steadfastly backed the project.

President Barack Obama has also said that Muslims
enjoy equal right of religious freedom in the US.

In his op-ed piece, the Imam noted that the support of
these two men had made a positive impact in the Muslim world.

"It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish
mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims," he wrote,
adding "Their statements sent a powerful message about what
America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in
improving American-Muslim relations."

Imam Rauf further underlined that the purpose of the
mosque was to bridge the gap between the Western and Muslim
worlds and to "help counter radical ideology."

"From the political conflicts between Israelis and
Palestinians to the building of a community centre in lower
Manhattan, Muslims and members of all faiths must work
together if we are ever going to succeed in fostering
understanding and peace," he wrote in The Times.

The developers of the mosque have said that the
Islamic centre will have shared spaces for community
activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space
for children.

Imam Rauf underlined that he was "sensitive to the
feelings of the families of victims of 9/11," and "would seek
the support of those families," as the plans for the mosque
proceeded.

"Our objective has always been to make this a centre
for unification and healing," he underlined.

Imam Rauf is one of the directors of the nonprofit
organisation that was recently formed to raise money for the
divisive lower Manhattan project.

PTI

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