Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has released an editorial announcing his plans to proceed with the building of an Islamic Mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.
The news from the imam came a few short hours after a coalition of Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders publicly denounced the increased anti-Muslim bigotry taking place across the U.S.
The imam shared his awe at the controversy that has surrounded his plans from the beginning. However, he very clearly stated that he plans to continue with the support of the community, the government, and religious leaders that are on his side.
Those who oppose the mosque say it’s an insult to those who died in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. They also fear that it’s likely to draw extremists, who might consider the mosque a tribute to the September 11 attacks.
Supporters say First Amendment rights are at stake.
Rauf expressed his desire to garner the support of the families of victims of 9/11, and said he plans to make the center a place for healing.
The issue has become a political football over the past several months. Candidates for various offices are using their support or opposition to the mosque as part of their campaign strategies. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed this on Tuesday, saying that the issue would disappear after elections in November.
The 9th anniversary of the September 11th attacks coincides this year with the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr, and marks the conclusion of Ramadan. The coincidental timing of the events, and the increasing number of controversies, has many religious figures worried about the possibility of hate crimes.
A coalition of faith leaders gathered Tuesday to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss their concerns over the growing trends.
The latest controversy to make international news relates to a Gainesville, Florida, church’s plan to burn copies of the Quran on September 11th. Though the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan has warned the church that its plans could provoke attacks on U.S. troops and civilians, the church has not backed down on its decision to burn Qurans.