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New York mosque debate could spur worldwide ripple effects: imam

09-14-2010 08:33 BJT

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.

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