N.Y. imam: 'Every option' being considered on Islamic community center

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2010; 8:05 PM

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said Monday that he and his advisers are considering "every option" for what to do about the controversial Islamic community center they plan to build two blocks from Ground Zero in New York, including delaying its construction or relocating it.

"We are exploring all options as we speak . . . working through what will be a solution that will resolve this problem," Abdul Rauf said in an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations. "Everything is on the table."

At the same time, he said, it is "disingenuous" of those who oppose the planned location of the center to say it is "hallowed ground" because of the people who were killed in the 2001 World Trade Center attacks by Muslim extremists. "There is a strip joint around the corner, betting parlors," Abdul Rauf said. "It is hallowed in one sense, but it doesn't add up. Let's clarify that misperception."

The planned center, he said, has been an important part of his efforts to raise the voices of what he said are "99.9 percent of Muslims in the world" who find terrorism "absolutely abhorrent." He added: "I want a space where the voice of the moderates can be amplified. It's not good enough to teach here - no students will hear you."

Abdul Rauf said the center would be "a place for all faiths to come together as partners, stakeholders in mutual respect. It will bring honor to the city of New York and to American Muslims. The world is watching," he said. "I offer you my pledge: We will live up to our ideals."

He placed discrimination against American Muslims and objections to the construction in the context of the historical "rejection" of minorities, including "Jews and Catholics, Irish and Italians, blacks and Hispanics," and said that "now it is our turn, as Muslims, to drink from this cup."

Abdul Rauf, who has been the imam of a mosque 12 blocks from the World Trade Center since 1983, said, "I belong to this neighborhood. I am a devout Muslim. I pray five times a day . . . and I am also a proud American citizen. Let no one forget that. I vote in elections, I pay taxes, I pledge allegiance to the flag, and I am a Giants fan."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company