Imam vows to go ahead with Ground Zero mosque

Monday, September 13, 2010

NEW YORK - The imam behind the controversial planned Islamic cultural centre close to the site of the destroyed World Trade Center vowed Monday to press ahead with the project.

Speaking at a press conference in New York, Faisal Abdul Rauf said: “Is it worth all this firestorm? The answer is a categorical yes. Why? Because this centre will be a place for all faiths to come together … in mutual respect.”

“It will bring honour to the city of New York, to American Muslims all over the country, and to Americans all over the world.”

But he added he was still “exploring all options,” hinting there may still be room for compromise.

“Everything is on the table,” he said.

Rauf’s plans to build a mosque and Islamic cultural centre just two blocks from where the World Trade Center used to stand has continued to generate controversy, as those opposed believed it should not be built near such a sensitive site.

The imam said “misconceptions” continue to abound about Islam and that “the need to clear (them) up … is greater than ever.”

He called on Americans not to equate Islamist extremists such as the terrorists who committed the attacks with ordinary Muslims.

“In no way do they represent our religion and we must not let them define us,” he said. “The real battle that we must wage today is not between Muslims and non-Muslims, it’s between moderates of all the faith traditions and extremists of all the faith traditions.”

Rauf called for a “coalition of faithfuls” from all religions to come together to lead that fight.

Rauf also shared some of his personal history in a bid to highlight his allegiance to the US. He became a naturalised US citizen in 1979 and has led a mosque in New York - “12 blocks north of the World Trade Center”, he noted - for 27 years.

He said he has participated in four cultural missions abroad at the behest of the US government, most recently to Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.

“I am a devout Muslim,” he said. “But I am also a proud American citizen, let no one forget that.”

Rauf praised the country’s freedom of religion, noting that it had helped strengthen his beliefs.

“You could say that I found my faith in this country,” he said. “For me, Islam and America are organically bound together.”

Filed under: Religion

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