Most New Yorkers don`t want Islamic centre near Ground Zero

The poll reveals a complicated portrait of the opposition in New York.

New York: Two-thirds of New York City residents want a controversial Muslim community centre and mosque to be relocated farther away from the site of 9/11 terrorist attack, according to a New York Times poll.

The poll indicates that support for the 13-storey complex at the September 11, 2001 ground zero site in Lower Manhattan, which organisers said would promote moderate Islam and interfaith dialogue, is tepid in its home town.

Nearly nine years after the attacks ignited a wave of anxiety about and animosity against Muslims, many in America`s biggest and arguably most cosmopolitan city still have an uneasy relationship with Islam, the Times said.

One-fifth of New Yorkers acknowledged animosity toward Muslims. Thirty-three percent said that compared with other American citizens, Muslims were more sympathetic to terrorists. And nearly 60 percent said people they know had negative feelings toward Muslims because of 9/11, the poll found.

Over all, 50 percent of those surveyed oppose building the project two blocks north of the World Trade Centre site, even though a majority believe that the developers have the right to do so. Thirty-five percent favour it.

Opposition is most intense in the city`s outer boroughs - 54 percent in the Bronx - but it is even strong in Manhattan, considered a bastion of religious tolerance, where 41 percent are against it, the Times said.

The poll reveals a complicated portrait of the opposition in New York: 67 percent said that while Muslims had a right to construct the centre near ground zero, they should find a different site.

Most strikingly, 38 percent of those who expressed support for the plan to build it in Lower Manhattan said later in a follow-up question that they would prefer it be moved farther away, suggesting that even those who defend the plan question the wisdom of the location.

Opponents offered differing opinions on how far the complex should be built from ground zero. One-fifth said at least 20 blocks, while almost the same number said at least 10 blocks. Seven percent said at least five blocks.

Even though President Barack Obama is highly popular in New York City, residents are divided over his handling of the issue (he first defended the centre, then seemed to backtrack slightly), the Times said noting 32 percent approve of Obama`s approach, while 27 percent disapprove.