INTERVIEW - NY imam plans "Muslim Y," not Ground Zero mosque

NEW YORK Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:42pm IST

U.S. Marine Corps and Navy personnel salute at the rails of the USS Iwo Jima as the amphibious assault ship passes Ground Zero in New York Harbor for Fleet Week May 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

U.S. Marine Corps and Navy personnel salute at the rails of the USS Iwo Jima as the amphibious assault ship passes Ground Zero in New York Harbor for Fleet Week May 26, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - When Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf decided to build a Muslim cultural centre in lower Manhattan, the model he chose couldn't have been more mainstream American -- the Young Men's Christian Association chapters found in cities across the United States.

The institution he had in mind was the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish adaptation of the YMCA concept that is one of New York's leading addresses for residents of all religions or none to visit for public lectures, debates, concerts or educational courses.

But Rauf's project is better known here now as the "Ground Zero mosque," after the term for the World Trade Centre site. Families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and conservative politicians have mounted an emotional campaign to block it, claiming that locating it only two blocks north of the site was a provocation.

"We repeatedly say we are neither a mosque nor within Ground Zero, but they just shout back 'Ground Zero mosque,' 'Ground Zero mosque,'" Rauf, 61, told Reuters in an interview. The planned building will have a prayer room for Muslims, he said, but it would only be a small part of the 13-story complex.

Rauf said the YMCA, which began in London in 1844 as Christian centre for young working men and quickly spread to the United States and other countries, had long worked to promote understanding across religious, ethnic and social dividing lines in modern societies. Now called simply "the Y," its facilities across the United States offer exercise classes, education and community activities.

"We are trying to establish something that follows the YMCA concept but is not a church or a synagogue or, in this case, a mosque," he said by telephone from Kuala Lumpur, where he is visiting. "We are taking that concept and adapting it to our time and the fact that we're Muslims. It's basically a Muslim Y."


The plan won overwhelming support at two community board meetings in May after they heard the $100 million complex would include a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, meeting rooms, art exhibition spaces, bookstore and a food court featuring dishes from around the Muslim world.

But critics promptly branded the prayer space a mosque, as if the building would feature domes and minarets rather than the sleek modern lines its architects have designed for it.

Mark Williams, a spokesman for the conservative "Tea Party" political movement, alleged the centre would be used for "terrorists to worship their monkey god." Rick Lazio, Republican candidate for New York state governor in November's elections, said its finances should be probed for possible links to extremist groups.

The building now on the site, built in 1858, has been shut since landing gear from one of the Sept. 11 planes crashed through its roof. Critics of the mosque said that made the building a "sacred" or "historic" structure that should be preserved.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin weighed in on her Twitter feed over the weekend, urging "peaceful Muslims" to reject the project she compared to a "stab in the heart."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has firmly supported the project, saying: "The government should never, never be in the business of telling people how they should pray or where they can pray."

Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer who, like Bloomberg, is Jewish took aim directly at the Tea Party's Williams. "His spewing of racial hatred reminds me ... of Adolf Hitler. We reject him. We reject his bigotry," he said.

Many religious organizations in New York have supported the imam and his project. Matthew Weiner, program director at the Interfaith Centre of New York, praised Rauf as an active participant in dialogue among the city's religions. "There is no question in the mind of any religious leader who has worked with Imam Feisal about his honesty and sincerity," he said.

Rauf said the project "couldn't be more urgent than right now. One thing I hear all the time is, 'Where are the moderate Muslims?' We are moderates and we've condemned radicalism. But moderation doesn't sell newspapers."

The imam said Muslim communities in Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai were considering copying his project to help build bridges among religious groups there.

Asked why he chose to build close to the World Trade Centre site, Rauf said: "I've been in this community for the last quarter century. I'm the imam of a mosque 10 blocks from there. But we now have to hold three sessions of Friday prayers because the space is so tight."

New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission will rule next month whether the current building on the site can be torn down, but Rauf can't imagine anything will hold up his project. "The people supporting it have far outnumbered those opposing it," he said. "The politicization of religion goes against the American ideal of the separation of church and state."

(Reporting by Tom Heneghan, editing by Daniel Trotta and Jackie Frank)

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Comments (4)
Adrian_Wainer wrote:
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has about zero credibility as being a proponent of moderation in Islam.

‎” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a key figure in Malaysian-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, according to its Website. ”
Read more:

Are newspapers in the United States which are not covering this, deliberately choosing to ignore these issues as it does not fit with the supposedly “liberal” media’s description of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, as a “moderate” Muslim.

The Perdana Global Peace Organization

” Signed by:

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Prof Francis A. Boyle
Dr. Helen Caldicott
Mr Matthias Chang
Prof Michel Chossudovsky
Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi
Mr Denis J. Halliday
Dato’ Mukhriz Mahathir
Dr Chandra Muzaffar
Dato’ Michael O.K. Yeoh
Mr Hans-Christof Von Sponeck ”

” Dr M says it again – 9/11 was a staged attack

KUALA LUMPUR: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is sticking to his guns that the Sept 11, 2001 attack on the New York World Trade Center was staged and denied that his statement was a publicity stunt. “What do I gain from a publicity stunt? I am merely going by a public statement. I am not going to be a Prime Minister any more unless you (turning to a journalist) want me to lah…” he told reporters yesterday after launching a two-volume book by Syed Salem Albukhary entitled Civilizations, Nomadic Migrations, Empires and the Trail of Islam. The former prime minister, who had watched a three-hour video which showed the attack and collapse of the towers, had suggested in his blog that the twins towers and a third building collapsed “demolition style.” Dr Mahathir who suggested that local television stations show the three-hour video, went on to state that Arabs were “not clever enough” to stage such a coordinated attack involving four planes. On being insensitive to the victims, Dr Mahathir replied: “I am being more sensitive to the victims as I am saying this is done deliberately.” On the daily transportation of sand from Johor to Singapore, Dr Mahathir said he spoke out as there was little reaction to the Works Minister’s statement that 500 lorries were making daily trips to the republic. “My friend said there was 700. Other people read about the Minister’s statement but do not comment. “They say it is fine… sell a little bit of Malaysia at a time. If cannot give one territory of Malaysia, you korek (dig) Malaysia and give to people,” he said, in lauding the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission crackdown on illegal sand mining. ”

Jul 22, 2010 10:16pm IST  --  Report as abuse
Adrian_Wainer wrote:
‎” Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, one of the organizations driving this mosque project, points out the need for moderate Muslims, such as the people behind this project, to step forward. “People often say, ‘Where are the moderate Muslim voices?’ A building like this, with this scale, will be an amplifier for that often silent majority…What most people don’t know is that the people who are driving this forward are very integrated into the community downtown. We are nothing to be feared.” ”
Professor Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

” A peace-making mosque is NECESSARY near Ground Zero ”

” Feisal Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, executive director of ASMA, has been one of the most assiduous promoters of the lower Manhattan mega-mosque. She spoke on July 6 to the Chautauqua Institution, celebrating the double heritage she claims: “The first, the American faith-based social activism, a legacy that included the abolitionists, women’s suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement. Second, I have inherited the tradition of my faith, a faith that has inspired positive social change for over 1,400 years.”

Rauf’s wife failed to mention another feature of her background: She is the niece of Dr. Farooq Khan, formerly a leader of the Westbury Mosque on Long Island, which is a center for Islamic radicals and links on its website to the paramilitary Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the front on American soil for the Pakistani jihadist Jamaat e-Islami. ”
Stephen Schwartz
” A Mosque Grows Near Brooklyn
Posted on: Wed, 21 Jul 2010 10:29:15 EDT ”

Where is the evidence of the supposed moderate nature of those who are associated with the Cordoba Initiative’s proposed Mosque ?

Jul 22, 2010 10:23pm IST  --  Report as abuse
Adrian_Wainer wrote:
‎”We agree with Ms. Palin that it is time to heal from the wounds of the tragic events of 9/11. We peace-loving Muslims have a responsibility to lead the effort of rebuilding Lower Manhattan,” she said in the statement. “We envision a community center for multifaith collaboration that is focused on promoting integration, tolerance of difference, and community cohesion.”
Daisy Khan

What “multifaith collaboration that is focused on promoting integration, tolerance of difference, and community cohesion” like this ?

UK Islamic School

Jul 22, 2010 10:29pm IST  --  Report as abuse
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