Imam 'Exploring All Options' for Mosque Near Ground Zero
By Ben Fractenberg
MANHATTAN — Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said he was working on a plan to resolve the dispute over the proposed mosque and community center near Ground Zero while addressing the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday morning.
"We are working through what will be a solution, God willing, that will resolve this crisis," Rauf said.
While Rauf stressed the importance of the location as a platform for moderate Muslims to have a voice, he also did not rule out moving the mosque.
"We are still exploring all options," Rauf told to the council Monday.
Rauf has been vocal about the Park51 project since returning from what he described as a State Department-approved trip to improve U.S. relations in the Islamic world.
"Is it worth the firestorm? The answer, ladies and gentlemen, is a categorical yes," Rauf said Monday.
Tensions have risen steadily over the past few months as to build the mosque and cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero have moved forward.
The imam explained Monday that although he's Muslim, he's just as American as everyone else despite the way he's been characterized by opponents of the project.
"Let no one forget that, I vote in elections, I pay taxes, I pledge allegiance to the flag and I’m a Giants fan," he said.
Rauf said the world will be watching how the controversy over the Islamic center is handled by Americans.
"The world will be watching what we do here. Will we live up to our ideals?" Rauf said. "The way we seek to reconcile our differences is being watched everywhere."
Rauf's address came a day after former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized him on national television. Giuliani said the imam was being duplicitous when he said moving the center would inflame radical Muslims.
"There's the good imam and the bad imam," Giuliani said on NBC's "Meet The Press." Sunday. "The good imam is about reconciliation ... then there's the bad imam who said America is an accessory to Sept. 11."
Rauf said Monday he rejects radical Islam and all religious extremism. He reiterated that he is a moderate Muslim whose goal has always been to improve relations between America and nations in the Middle East.
"I’m a proud American citizen; let no one forget that," Rauf said. "As an American and as a Muslim I believe I can make, and have made, an important contribution as a messenger and as a bridge."