New York mosque dispute is about `Islam in America`

The dispute over the mosque near Ground Zero in New York is not a battle over "real estate" but it will have an impact on Islam in America, according to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

New York: The dispute over the mosque near
Ground Zero in New York is not a battle over "real estate" but
it will have an impact on Islam in America, according to Imam
Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is the main developer of the
controversial Islamic Centre.

The latest poll shows that 70 per cent of people in
New York state are against building the mosque so close to the
World Trade Centre, which was attacked by terrorists on 9/11.
The majority of New Yorkers recognise that Muslims
have a constitutional right of religious freedom to build the
mosque but they want the developers of the Islamic Centre to
voluntarily shift it.

"The story has expanded far beyond a piece of real
estate, it has expanded to the issues of Islam in America and
what it means for us," said Imam Rauf, adding "The scope of
the discourse has expanded rapidly in a season which is also
politicised."

"We have to be careful... but I can assure you we will
do all we can...for a course of increased harmony, peace and
well-being in our city and country," he was quoted as saying
by the UAE-based daily The National.

The Imam, who is on a State Department sponsored tour
of the Middle East to promote goodwill between the U.S. and
the Muslim nations, was speaking at the Dubai School of
Government.

"It is important to us to shift the discourse from the
discourse of identity politics. We have to elevate the
discourse because there is far more that bonds us," said Imam
Feisal.
He said the battlefront is not between Muslims and
non-Muslims. "It is between moderates...against extremists and
radicals of all the faith traditions,? the controversial
cleric underlined.

The opposition against the mosque, however, has spread
across political party lines in the US.

Prominent Republican party leaders like Rudy Giuliani,
and Newt Gingrich have already spoken out against the mosque
as have Democrats like Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

Besides the general opposition to the mosque, the
latest Quinnipac University poll found that 70 per cent of New
York state voters wanted New York Attorney General Andrew M.
Cuomo to investigate where the money to fund the project was
coming from.

New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is one of
the few politicians supporting the construction of the mosque
near Ground Zero, has rebuffed calls to probe into the
finances.

"I think it`s a terrible precedent," he said, adding
"You don`t want them investigating donations to religious
organisations, and there`s no reason for the government to do
so."

Sharif El Gamal, another developer of the
controversial Islamic Centre, has said that there are no plans
to get funds from Iran or Islamist group Hamas for building
the mosque.
We will not take money from Iran. We will not take
money from Hamas, El Gamal told CBS`s `60 Minutes.` "We will
not take money from organisations that have un-American
values.

Responding to the widespread opposition against the
mosque in the US, Imam Feisal said: "Americans are by and
large a tolerant people...if they are informed properly what
the actual facts of the situation are, they will always make
the right decision.

He also pointed out an absence of cultural and
religious diversity in the Muslim world.

"If you look back at Islamic history until Ottoman
times, our societies were multicultural, multi-lingual,
multi-religious, multi-denominational. We have lost that and
it is important for us to recreate that in our societies,? he
underlined.

PTI

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