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Muslims call a summit over NYC mosque plan

By David B. Caruso
Associated Press / September 18, 2010

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NEW YORK — Some Muslims who were initially indifferent about a proposed Islamic center near the World Trade Center site are now rallying around the plan, partly in response to a sense that their faith is under assault.

A summit of US Muslim organizations is planned for today and tomorrow in New York City to address both the project and a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment that has accompanied the debate over the project.

It has yet to be seen whether the group will emerge with a firm stand on the proposed community center.

The primary purpose of the meeting is to talk about ways to combat religious bigotry. But Shaik Ubaid of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, one of the groups organizing the gathering, said he has a growing sense that the project is being embraced by American Muslims and Muslim groups after some initial trepidation.

“Once it became a rallying cry for extremists, we had no choice but to stand with Feisal Rauf,’’ he said, referring to the New York City imam who has been leading the drive.

Groups scheduled to participate include the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim Alliance of North America, and the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Gauging support for the center among US Muslims is difficult. As a group, they are diverse, ranging from blacks who found the faith during the civil rights movement to recent immigrants hailing from opposite ends of the globe. They rarely speak with one voice.

“I think most Muslims outside New York City are more concerned about the backlash than the actual center, which most of them will never directly benefit from,’’ said Shahed Amanullah, the editor in chief of the website altmuslim.com and a group of other Islam-themed sites.

The center’s location two blocks from ground zero has upset some relatives of Sept. 11 victims and stirred nationwide debate and angry demands that it be moved. Critics say the site of mass murder by Islamic extremists is no place for an Islamic institution.

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