NEW YORK (Reuters) - Conservative politicians and some New Yorkers still traumatized by the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001 have emotionally opposed a proposed Muslim community center and mosque two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, also known as “Ground Zero.”
In recent weeks the project has also drawn wide national attention, including qualified support from President Barack Obama and a suggestion from his fellow Democrat Harry Reid, the party leader in the Senate, that it would be better built elsewhere.
Some facts about the project:
Cordoba House is a proposed mosque and Islamic cultural center for lower Manhattan. In addition to prayer space, the 13-story glass and steel structure would have an auditorium, a pool, fitness center and classrooms.
The project, also known as Park51 Muslim Cultural Center, is the creation of the Cordoba Initiative, a think-tank whose stated mission is to improve dialogue between Muslims and the West and promote engagement through education.
Started in 2004, the group is headed by Kuwait-born imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, an Islamic scholar.
Rauf, a Sufi Muslim, has been active in establishing a dialogue with other religions and has worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to train agents on cultural and religious sensitivity since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Sufi Muslims have been targeted by violent extremists in the Muslim world who disagree with Sufis’ tolerance and strand of Islam. A Sufi mosque was attacked in Lahore, Pakistan, on July 1, killing 42 people and wounding 175.
The site is owned by Sharif El-Gamal, a U.S.-born Muslim who is chief executive of Soho Properties.
The property is located at 45-51 Park Place, two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, which is under reconstruction. Once completed, the cultural center could hold up to 2,000 worshippers.
Organizers of Park51 estimate the project will cost $100 million, which has not yet been raised. They say they plan to obtain the funds through traditional fundraising, although financing the project has become a point of contention due to fears among critics that money would come from extremist organizations.
Reporting by Karina Ioffee; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Jerry Norton