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Ground Zero mosque has support of NRIs

Other than the fact that they're both Indian-Americans in politics, there shouldn't be much in common between a liberal candidate for the US Congress from Manhattan and a conservative who worked in the Bush White House.

world Updated: Sep 04, 2010 00:01 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

Other than the fact that they're both Indian-Americans in politics, there shouldn't be much in common between a liberal candidate for the US Congress from Manhattan and a conservative who worked in the Bush White House.

But Democrat Reshma Saujani and Republican Suhail Khan are on the same side when it comes to taking a position on the controversial Islamic Cultural Center that has been dubbed the Ground Zero Mosque. Both of them believe the project should continue at the disputed site, two blocks away from Ground Zero, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. And they appear to echo the larger view of the political class within the Indian-American community.

For Saujani, it's been a major issue as she campaigns in a constituency that covers a large part of Manhattan, and attempts to defeat a sitting member of the US House of Representatives in a primary later this month for the Democratic Party's nomination to contest the seat. For Khan, it's a break from the majority viewpoint within his own party.

Khan was in the White House when George W Bush was President and the 9/11 attacks occurred. Now a Senior Fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Global Engagement, Khan is critical of the opposition voiced to the location of the project by senior leaders of his party including former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin.

In an interview, Khan said he was “disappointed” at those statements. He explained that the "Center has become wrapped up in emotionally and religiously charged rhetoric that is very hostile to individual rights."

While Indian-American groups that lean towards the Democratic Party was understandably more inclined towards supporting the project, even conservatives appear to have recognised the sensitivity around it. For instance, the Indian American Conservative Council (IACC) has decided to remain neutral in the war of words.

Of course, that doesn't mean the entire community is backing the project. Among the major figures behind the movement protesting the Center is Babu Suseelan, a community activist, who will participate in the rally against the project on September 11 at the site.

But, strangely enough, this is one divisive issue on which Indian-American politicians appear to have gained a degree of agreement.

New York wants mosque to move

Two-thirds of New York City residents want a controversial Muslim community centre and mosque to be relocated farther away from the site of 9/11 terrorist attack, according to a New York Times poll.

The poll indicates that support for the 13-story complex at the September 11, 2001 ground zero site in Lower Manhattan, which organizers said would promote moderate Islam and interfaith dialogue, is tepid in its home town.

The poll reveals a complicated portrait of the opposition in New York: 67 per cent said that while Muslims had a right to construct the centre near ground zero, they should find a different site.

Most strikingly, 38 per cent of those who expressed support for the plan to build it in Lower Manhattan said later in a follow-up question that they would prefer it be moved farther away.