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Indians in America debate over mosque near 9/11 site

world Updated: Aug 16, 2010 13:52 IST

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Indians in US like the rest of the country are divided on the issue of controversial 'Ground Zero Mosque' to be constructed near the site of fallen World Trade Centre twin towers.

"9/11 was a terrorist attack not an attack by Muslim," said Shivang Naik, a 25-year-old advertising consultant from Texas who is based in New York. "I don't see why it shouldn't be constructed."

For the past several months, the proposed mosque near Ground Zero has divided the families of the 9/11 victims, New Yorkers, the polity and public throughout the country.

Groups opposing the mosque and Islamic Centre called Cordoba House, which will cost USD 100 million, assert that building the mosque so close to Ground Zero is inappropriate since the terrorist attack was carried out by radical Muslims.

The main proponent of the mosque Kuwaiti-born Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, stressed that 'Cordoba House' will be "centre for all New Yorkers" and "its purpose is to interweave America's Muslim population into the mainstream society."

"What grieves me most is the false reporting that leads some families of 9/11 victims to think this project somehow is designed by Muslims to gloat over the attack," he said in May.

"Rauf is a progressive leader," said Najma Sultana, a prominent Indian Muslim activist in NYC, noting that many of the misgivings about the plan were being driven by the right-wing media and politicians in the country.

"But the questions on funding are legitimate and these should be answered," she added.

"The mosque in that location will lead to many racial issues... Americans are so overly-conscious about this that it wouldn’t be safe," said Pooja Patel, a 26-year-old student who is studying finance in New Jersey.

While hosting Iftar on Friday, President Barack Obama said that freedom of religion was enshrined in US constitution and that Muslims had the right to build the mosque.

"Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," he said. "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."

The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg welcomed Obama's remarks, "I applaud President Obama's clarion defense of the freedom of religion," he said.

The next day, however, Obama clarified that his previous remarks only related to rights of American-Muslims but did not address whether the mosque should be built on disputed site.

"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there," he said during a trip to Florida on Saturday.