The imam of Park51, the Islamic cultural center and mosque slated to rise two blocks from Ground Zero, told Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper that the project’s boiling controversy was not a religious dispute but a battle within American politics.
“There is no doubt that the election season has had a major impact upon the nature of the discourse,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said told the newspaper.
On a State Department-sponsored Middle East trip to improve dialogue between the U.S. and Muslim world, Rauf told the paper that people from different faiths supported the mosque, but “there are also those very small, loud and vociferous voices who are beating the drum for the opposite kind of discourse.”
Jeff Morton, 47, and his wife, Yolanda, Kansas tourists visiting Ground Zero yesterday, thought Rauf should travel to their state and the rest of the Midwest: “There would be a small minority saying it would be OK. ... People from the entire nation don’t want it here.”
Husseini Baba Al-Waiz, a Bronx tutor praying at the Park51 site yesterday (the old Burlington Coat Factory building is already being used as a mosque) worried that opponents outweighed supporters and believed that misinformation about Islam was responsible for this weekend’s arson at a Tennessee mosque and last week’s vandalizing of a California mosque.
Those behind the 9/11 attacks “hijacked the Islamic faith,” Al-Waiz said. “They’re diametrically opposed to Islamic principles.”