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Muslim Leaders Stand by Islamic Center Near Ground Zero
by Anne Barnard
Comparing the planners of the Muslim community center and mosque to be built two blocks from ground zero to Rosa Parks, leaders of numerous American Muslim organizations declared their strong support for the project on Monday, and said it should not move.
The leaders, representing local as well as national groups, stressed that their primary concern was not this one project, called Park51, but other instances of anti-Muslim sentiment, driven by what they called fear, lack of information and political opportunism, that has led small, vocal groups of residents from Staten Island and Brooklyn to California and Tennessee to oppose the construction of mosques.
They said they had agreed to "facilitate" Park51 after meeting Sunday with its developer, Sharif el-Gamal, and receiving a written statement from the iman behind the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, who stayed away for security reasons. They said "facilitate" did not mean fund-raising help — money questions will take longer to resolve, they said — but instead helping straighten out misimpressions about the project, and standing up as religious leaders for the First Amendment.
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