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Are the sponsors of the mosque wise?

Financial Times, August 23, 2010

Sir, Your enthusiasm for the Islamic centre and mosque near Ground Zero (Editorial Comment, August 17) is misplaced. It is not just easy hate figures of the right such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich who are opposed to this mosque – CNN’s poll showed 70 per cent of Americans to be against it and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has joined them. President Barack Obama has shilly-shallyed.

The issue is not whether Muslims have the right to build mosques in America but whether the sponsors of this one are wise. The heartache and the controversy that the plans have already aroused suggest not. You describe Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the principal backer of the mosque, as a “moderate” but he refuses to denounce all Islamist terrorism and he declines to say who is funding his mosque.

Much more good sense is to be had fromAbdul Rahman al-Rashed, general manager of Al-Arabiya TV, who argues that the majority of Muslims have no wish for this Ground Zero mosque “because it will become an arena for promoters of hatred, and symbol of those who committed the crime”. Moreover, he said, there are no practising Muslims in the Ground Zero area who need a place to worship, because it is a commercial district. “The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious centre out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery.”

If Imam Rauf is really a “moderate Muslim” who seeks conciliation not clashes between civilisations, he should at once accept the offer from the governor of New York of a less provocative, less emotional site.

William Shawcross,
St Mawes, Cornwall, UK


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