Muslims resolute on NYC mosque

Sept. 21, 2010 at 8:22 PM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Muslim leaders want the planned Islamic center with a mosque near Ground Zero in New York to "reflect America," the head of an Islamic organization said.

The leaders say the issue has become a test of their First Amendment right to build mosques anywhere in the country, the Christian Science Monitor reported Monday.

"From the discussion we had with the developer, they are committing to expedite the process, of making sure this project is coherent, has an advisory board from the Muslim community so this project will reflect America in terms of its spirit and its look at the future," Zaheer Uddin, executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council in New York, said.

The Islamic leaders' resolve puts pressure on the Muslim developer of the property, Sharif El-Gamal, to go through with the project, the newspaper said. Others are offering lucrative bids to the developer.

Developer Donald Trump offered $6 million for the property, which was bought for almost $2 million less, the newspaper said.

The Muslim groups meeting in New York are calling for a national week of dialogue next month, following controversy engendered by the proposed Koran-burning by Terry Jones, a pastor in Gainesville, Fla. The event was called off but some Muslims have found burned copies of the Koran, the Council on American Islamic Relations reported.

The New York Daily News, citing a WNYW, New York, interview, reported Tuesday Hisham Elzanaty, 51, the Egyptian-born business man who is the Islamic center's largest investor, said he won't give up his plans.

"I felt it was a great place for people to pray," he said. "I did not expect this commotion, this hate, this anger."

He said he understands the pain of the Sept. 11 families.

"I'm a regular guy. I'm Muslim. I'm an American."I will never do anything to harm America," Elzanaty said.

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