Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mosque near ground zero Sept 11

NEW YORK - AFTER hours of contentious public comment, a New York City community board voted late Tuesday to support a plan to build a mosque and cultural centre near ground zero.

'It's a seed of peace,' board member Rob Townley said. 'We believe that this is a significant step in the Muslim community to counteract the hate and fanaticism in the minority of the community.' The vote was 29-to-1 in favour of the plan, with 10 abstentions.

The move by the Manhattan Community Board 1, while not necessary for the building's owners to move forward with the project, is seen as key to obtaining residents' support. The organizations sponsoring the project say they're trying to meet a growing need for prayer space in lower Manhattan, as well as provide a venue for the dissemination of mainstream Islam, to counter extremism.

'The moderate Muslim voice has been squashed in America,' said Bruce Wallace, who said he lost a nephew in the Sept. 11 attacks. 'Here is a chance to allow moderate Muslims to teach people that not all Muslims are terrorists.' Others at the meeting had a different view.

'We think it's an insult,' said Pamela Gellar, executive director of Stop Islamization of America. 'It's demeaning to non-Muslims to build a shrine dedicated to the very ideology that inspired 9/11.' The plan, which would include areas for interfaith activities and conferences and an arts centre, has attracted political and social opposition.

Conservative tea party activist Mark Williams has called the proposed centre a monument to the terror attacks. And some Sept. 11 victims' families say they're angry it would be built so close to where their relatives died. -- AP

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