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Friday, May 7,2010

Muslim groups plan $100 million mosque and cultural center near ground zero

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

NEW YORK — Two Muslim groups that say they want to promote better understanding of their religion and heal the wounds from Sept. 11 are drawing close to constructing a $100 million mosque and Islamic cultural center in the shadows of the World Trade Center site.

The Manhattan-based groups say the project at Park Place and Broadway a block from ground zero is aimed at serving a growing number of Muslims who work in the area and providing a community center for the neighborhood at large.

The project received unanimous approval from the 12-member Community Board 1's financial district committee on Wednesday night, clearing the way for workers to begin transforming the old Burlington Coat factory into the 13-story center. No mass opposition to the project has emerged, though some relatives of Sept. 11 victims consider it inappropriate.

The project is "meant to take the tragedy of 9/11 and turn that into something incredibly positive by creating a vision" of how Muslims and non-Muslims can coexist peacefully while rejecting terrorism, said Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement.

"We are taking a step and saying we want to be part of rebuilding Lower Manhattan," added Khan, a 1975 graduate of Long Island's Jericho High School and the niece of Dr. Faroque Khan, a prominent Muslim leader on Long Island.

The center, which could be completed in three years, would also include a 500-seat auditorium, a swimming pool, a basketball court, and spaces for classes and wedding receptions.

Khan said a mosque in New York City's TriBeCa neighborhood is overflowing with the faithful during prayer services, and that another one is needed in the area. The mosque attracts everyone from investment bankers and CEOs to street vendors, she said.

The society's sister group, the Cordoba Initiative, is also sponsoring the project.

Not everyone supports it. Rosemary Cain, a Massapequa, N.Y., resident whose son, firefighter George Cain, 35, was killed in the 2001 attacks, called the mosque project "outrageous."

"It's a slap in the face to all the families of the victims and to the victims themselves who were murdered that day," Cain said. She said she thought Muslims had not publicly condemned the Sept. 11 attacks enough.

Khan called the Sept. 11 attack "abhorrent" and said people critical of the mosque project "are operating from fear ... and from not knowing who we are as a community. Extremists are a fraction of our community. They are a threat not only to the broader American community but to the Muslim community. Together we have to fight this."


(c) 2010, Newsday.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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