Plans to build a 13-storey mosque and Islamic centre two city blocks from Ground Zero in New York are provoking an anti-Muslim backlash in America.
Muslim organisations picked the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory shop damaged in the September 11, 2001, attacks. The building at 45 Park Place has been vacant since it was hit by the fuselage of one of the jets flown into the World Trade Centre by Islamic terrorists.
“We want to create a platform by which the voices of the mainstream and silent majority of Muslims will be amplified. A centre of this scale and magnitude will do that,” said Daisy Khan, director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which is behind the project.
The financial district committee of New York Community Board 1, representing local residents, gave the proposed Islamic centre a vote of confidence at a meeting on May 5.
The $100 million (£69 million) project would include a swimming pool, a basketball court, a 500-seat theatre and possibly a daycare centre. About 2,000 Muslims are expected to attend Friday prayers there.
The plans, however, have stirred a groundswell of opposition, with a group called Stop the Islamicisation of America calling for a street demonstration on June 6. “What could be more insulting and humiliating than a monster mosque in the shadow of the World Trade Centre buildings that were brought down by an Islamic jihad attack?” said Pamela Geller, the group’s director. “Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise, wouldn’t dream of such an insult. It’s a stab in the eye of America.”