August 20, 2010 in Nation/World

Giuliani joins mosque-movers

Michael Gormley Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Pedestrians argue with Abu Rahman, right, Matt Sky and Julia Lundy as they stand in front of the site of a proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York, Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK – Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Thursday joined a growing number of politicians supporting a move of a proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero to state-owned land farther from the Sept. 11 attack site.

Giuliani, who led New Yorkers through Sept. 11 and its aftermath and whose opinion on the mosque could carry considerable clout, made his comments as the imam leading plans for the community center toured the Middle East promoting religious tolerance.

“If you are a healer, you do not go forward with this project,” Giuliani said on NBC’s “Today” show, referring to the center’s leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. “If you are a warrior, you do.”

Developers want to build the $100 million community center, including a mosque, at a building two blocks north of where Islamic extremists brought down the World Trade Center in 2001. Muslims have been holding prayer services at the building since last year.

Support is growing for a possible land swap to provide an alternate site for what’s called the Park51 project, Gov. David Paterson said.

Paterson said he had the support of Islamic clergy, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Giuliani. The governor and state officials refused to say what site would be suitable for the proposed cultural center or where the state owns nearby land.

Paterson said he expects to meet with the developers in a couple of days to persuade them that a move could best assuage the “national hysteria” that has followed the project.

Sharif el-Gamal, Park51’s developer, and The Cordoba Initiative, an organization that hopes to operate the community center, didn’t return telephone and e-mail messages Thursday.

Feisal Abdul Rauf, who heads Cordoba, arrived in Bahrain on Thursday for a U.S.-funded outreach trip for two weeks in the Middle East.

Rauf was expected to discuss Muslim life in America and promote religious tolerance. He will be visiting mosques, Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday.

Rauf won’t be allowed to raise funds for the mosque on the trip, Crowley said.

The project has caused a political uproar. Foes argue that the proposed mosque is offensive because it’s too close to the place where terrorists killed more than 2,700 people. Supporters say the center’s constitutional rights to religious freedom should be protected.

Both sides were on display Thursday at the site, where on the sidewalk passers-by had scribbled messages in multicolored chalk.

Matt Sky, a 26-year-old resident of Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood, hoisted a placard that read: “Support Freedom of Religion.”

“Islam is not terror,” Sky said. “The guys who blew up the towers called themselves Muslims. But other Muslims did not blow up the towers.”

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