'US mosque row feeds radicals'
Feisal Abdul Rauf, planner of New York Islamic centre, says Muslims 'part of the fabric of America' despite recent rows.
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2010 01:19 GMT
Concerns about the location of an Islamic centre have 'increased Islamophobia' in the US [GALLO/GETTY]

The Islamic scholar behind plans to build a community centre and mosque several blocks from the site of the 9-11 attacks in New York has warned that retreating from the project would only strengthen the hand of extremists in both the Islamic and the West.

But Feisal Abdul Rauf did not commit to keeping the centre at its current site, two blocks from the wreckage of the World Trade Centre, as it has been suggested that the facility could be moved to relieve tensions with opponents who say it should not be built so close to "Ground Zero".

"The decisions that I will make -- that we will make -- will be predicated on what is best for everybody," he told ABC's This Week programme which aired on Sunday.

"The radicals on both sides, the radicals in the United States and the radicals in the Muslim world, feed off each other. And to a certain extent, the attention that they've been able to get by the media has even aggravated the problem," he told ABC.

Mosque controversy

The centre, to be built on the site of a derelict clothing store in a neighborhood which houses other mosques and a strip club, was proposed by Abdul Rauf as a way of giving Islam a new face in the United States and supporters see it as a place for reconciliation between faiths.

"My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America," the scholar told ABC. "This will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment."

Abdul Rauf's comments come amid heigntened tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in the US and beyond, sparked in part by debates around the Islamic community centre in New York and plans, which have been canceled, from a marginal Florida pastor to publicly burn the Quran.

Terry Jones, leader of a Florida church with less than 50 members, had promised to burn the Quran on September 11, but canceled the scheme on Saturday, saying that he would "not today, not ever" burn the holy book after Barack Obama, the US president, and other leading American military and political figures, condemned his plan.  

"The recent controversy, I think, has heightened the concern among Muslims, but we feel that there is a spike of Islamophobia which is reaching and perhaps even possibly exceeding what happened right after 9/11," Abdul Rauf told ABC. 

Quran protests

Despite canceling the event, protests against the planned burning have erupted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia and in the United States itself.

In Afghanistan, security forces shot and killed two protesters on Sunday, as an angry crowd denounced Quran burning plans and chanted anti-US slogans in the eastern district of Baraki Barak, where they tried to storm the governor's office. 

Abdul Rauf said the row over the planned burnings "would have strengthened the radicals ... [enhancing] the possibility of terrorist acts against America and American interests".

The scholar said that it was important to stress that Muslims are "part of the fabric of America" and that contrary to the claims of Islamic extremists, they are free to observe their religion and "thrive in this country".

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