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New York mosque debate could spur worldwide ripple effects: imam

09-14-2010 08:00 BJT

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the public face of a controversial plan to construct a mosque near ground zero in New York, said Monday that the contentious debate over the project could have ripple effects worldwide.

"What happens right here, right now, in this city, in our city, matters. It matters more than ever ... The way we seek to reconcile our differences, is watched and is resonating all over the world," he said in a speech from New York.

"Because America is the global superpower today, many Americans don't realize it, but our example speaks loudly to the whole world, " said the chairman of the nonprofit organization Cordoba Initiative.

"What non-Muslims do here and say here matters to the Muslim world," he said during a question and answer period after the speech. "What happens here will have ripple effects."

Opponents have for weeks voiced their disapproval of Rauf's group's plans to build a Muslim cultural center and mosque just blocks from where more than 3,000 people perished in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

While no one is contesting the organization's right to build on private property -- the group has a constitutional right to do so - - the debate centers around whether the project demonstrates insensitivity toward 9/11 victims' families. Some are advocating that the mosque be moved to a location further from ground zero.

Some supporters of the plan have expressed concerns that opponents are motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment and some American Muslims feel they are being unfairly lumped in with extremists.

Regarding the dispute over whether to move the mosque, the imam said on Monday that "everything is on the table" but did not comment on any specific plans.

MODERATES VS. RADICALS

The real battle, however, is not between Muslims and non- Muslims, but between moderates of all faiths against extremists of all faiths, Rauf said.

"All faiths have among their members those who distort and twist the core values for their own agendas," he said. "They advocate positions that we here and that decent people all over the world -- and I assure you, 99 point whatever percent of the Muslims in the world absolutely, totally find this abhorrent."

Islam categorically rejects the killing of innocent people, he said.

"Terrorists violate the sanctity of human life and corrupt the meaning of our faith. In no way do they represent our religion, and we must not let them define us," he said.

The ideology that fuels Muslim militancy -- that of a worldwide clash between Muslims and non-Muslims -- is false, he said.

"We must not let the extremists, whatever their faith, whatever their political persuasion, hijack the discourse and hijack the media. That only fuels greater extremism," he said.

The imam advocated creating a coalition of moderates from all religions to combat the extremists, but was vague on how exactly such a group would proceed.

Militancy is also a threat to Muslim governments and societies, and disrupts lives in the Muslim world to a great degree, he said.

"It is as much a threat to Muslim governments. It is as much a threat to Muslim societies. People in Pakistan are sick and tired of suicide bombers. People in Iraq are sick and tired of it," he said.

Rauf recounted a trip he once took to Egypt after a terrorist attack against a group of Swiss tourists, saying that individuals in that country were angry because tourism dried up and had a negative impact on the economy.

It is a misperception that Muslims are happy to see terror attacks, he said. "They're not. They're miserable."

Terrorists often use media coverage to air their message, and Rauf pondered what would happen if a news blackout occurred whenever there was a suicide bombing.

"What would happen to the extremists? They love the fact that the media gives them this coverage," he said, but added that he was not advocating the idea.

CRITICS

Monday's speech echoed earlier statements that moving the mosque would send the message to the Muslim world that American Muslims were under attack.

Speaking Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, "Those are very very strong words. And to enter a sort of a suggestion of a threat into this, I worry about this as the kind of tactics he pursues."

Refuting those general criticisms but not responding to Giuliani specifically, the imam told ABC's "This Week" that he has never made any threats and that he is dedicated to peace.

 

Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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