By Ben Fractenberg
DOWNTOWN — The proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero will have a new leader, the organizatoin behind the project announced Friday.
The previous spiritual leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, will take a reduced role to focus on other projects, including a national speaking tour promoting tolerance between faiths.
"Due to the fact that Imam Feisal is focusing most of his energies and passion on launching this new and separate initiative, it is important that the needs of Park51, the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, take precedence," the organization said in a statement Friday.
"Our focus is and must remain the residents of Lower Manhattan and the Muslim American community in the Greater New York area."
Park51 said they have a new Imam acting as senior adviser, Abdullah Adhami.
Adhami has reportedly preformed guest lectures at the proposed center site and has been a fixture in lower Manhattan.
"This is an extraordinary opportunity to be a key advisor on a project going forward that has enormous creative and healing potential for the collective good in New York City and in our nation," said Imam Adhami in a statement.
The proposed center became a national controversy over the summer after critics said it was insensitive to build an Islamic center so close to Ground Zero.
Proponents of the site, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, argued the issue was about religious freedom and the rights of property owners.
"We are very excited about the next phase of Park51 and the challenging work ahead," Sharif El-Gamal, the Trustee and President of Park51 said. "It is an honor for me personally to welcome Imam Adhami to our team. I look forward to his leadership and assistance in the development of Park51."