Proposed Ground Zero mosque imam linked to Free Gaza Movement

The imam behind proposed mosque near Ground Zero is in midst of controversy.

Updated: Jun 06, 2010, 13:44 PM IST

New York: The imam behind the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York is in the midst of a controversy over revelations that he has ties with a group that helped sponsor the pro-Palestinian activists, who clashed with Israeli commandos at sea this week.

According to the New York Post, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a key figure in Malaysia-based Perdana Global Peace Organisation, which is the single biggest donor so far to the Free Gaza Movement.

Perdana was also a key organiser of the six-ship flotilla that tried to break Israel’s economic blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Monday.

Deborah Burlingame, the sister of the American Airlines pilot whose hijacked plane struck the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, said the indirect ties of the imam to the protesters were not surprising.

“I think it goes to show he is not the man he represents himself to be. We have two Imam Raufs,” The New York Post quoted Burlingame, as saying.

“We have the anti-Israel, anti-democratic imam, and we have the smiling, soft-spoken moderate Muslim who says ‘Why can`t we all get along?’” she added.

Imam Rauf is the head of the Cordoba Institute, which is in charge of the highly controversial project- a 15-storey mega-mosque at the former Park Place Burlington Coat Factory, 600 feet from Ground Zero.

He had earlier said that a mosque at the site would help to “bridge the great divide” between Muslims and the rest of America.

“We are Americans, we are Muslim Americans. Many of us were born in the United States. We have no higher aspirations that to bring up our children in peace and harmony in this country,” Rauf said.

“Freedom of assembly is the right of all Americans,” he added.