By Ben Fractenberg
LOWER MANHATTAN —Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani called the proposed mosque and community center near Ground Zero "divisive" Thursday morning.
"This project is creating tremendous pain for people who've already made the ultimate sacrifice. All you're doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred," Giuliani said on the "Today" show, weighing in for the first time on the issue NBC New York reported.
Host Matt Lauer asked Giuliani how he reconciled that view with Constitutional protections of freedom of religion. Giuliani said he agreed the mosque developers had a right to build on Park Place, two blocks from Ground Zero, but said it was a question of whether they should build it.
"I was the first person on Sept. 11 to step forward in the heat of battle and say, 'No group blame, do not blame Arabs, it's a small group,'" he said on the "Today" show, "But the reality is that, right now, if you are a healer you do not go through with this project. If you're a warrior, you do."
The project, known as Park51, recently had taken to Twitter to defend itself against criticism. The posts tended to be snarky and humorous, but that strategy apparenly backfried.
Park 51 replaced workers in its Twitter team after getting flack for snarky posts, including one against Jewish paper Haaretz.
On Monday they posted response to a Haaretz article that said Park51 intended to move the location of the proposed center.
"If Haaretz likes publishing fables, perhaps they could go back to the Yiddish ones with parable," they tweeted on Monday from their @Park51 account.
The next day they issued an official apology, the New York Post reported.
“Update: We are in the process of introducing a new team and are issuing apologies for any prior tweets that may have caused offense.”
Despite the cyberspace flack, the Park51 site is turning into a popular attraction.
People from around the country are coming to see and take pictures of the building at 51 Park Place, the Post reported reported Thursday.
"Most faiths bring communities together. This is a community center. Every religion has a right to practice in the US," Amy Sajardo, 18, who was from Salt Lake City, Utah, told The Post.
"This was chosen − I think − as a site to provoke controversy and it's disrespectful to the memory of the people who died just a stone's throw from here," Jack Dee, 61, who was in town from Buffalo, told the paper. "People have a right to practice their faith. But this is in bad faith."