A heated U.S. debate over a planned Islamic center near New York’s World Trade Center site is seen by Middle East media, scholars and citizens as more of a domestic American issue than an attack on their faith.
Kuwait-born imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim cleric leading the project to establish the center, has been in Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in the past two weeks, but met with a more subdued reaction than the U.S. media.
“Muslims this time are not part of this, they didn’t call for it, they didn’t defend it and didn’t bother with the whole issue,” Saudi columnist, Abdulrahman al-Rashid, wrote in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Alawsat.
The U.S. scuffle is perceived as much less of an affront to Islam than Switzerland’s vote to ban minarets and France’s moves to forbid the full face veil, observers say.
Asked whether Americans were becoming more intolerant, Imam Abdul Rauf played down American prejudice.
“If they are informed properly about what the actual facts of the situation are, they will always make the right decision,” he said.
Abdul Rauf’s project, now named Park51, has been dubbed by its critics the “Ground Zero mosque” because of its proximity to the World Trade Center site where nearly 3,000 people were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.