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Muslim groups plan Islamic center at Sept. 11 site

Aerial view of Ground Zero (April 5 ,

Aerial view of Ground Zero (April 5 , 2010) Credit: Ed Betz

Two Muslim groups that say they want to promote better understanding of their religion and heal the wounds from Sept. 11 are drawing close to constructing a $100-million mosque and Islamic cultural center in the shadows of the World Trade Center site.

The Manhattan-based groups, including one run by a Jericho High School graduate, say the project at Park Place and Broadway, two blocks from Ground Zero, is aimed at serving a growing number of Muslims who work in the area and providing a community center for the neighborhood at large.

The project received unanimous approval from the 12-member Community Board 1's financial district committee on Wednesday night, clearing the way for workers to begin transforming the old Burlington Coat factory into the 13-story center. No mass opposition to the project has emerged, though some relatives of Sept. 11 victims consider it inappropriate.

The project is "meant to take the tragedy of 9/11 and turn that into something incredibly positive by creating a vision" of how Muslims and non-Muslims can coexist peacefully while rejecting terrorism, said Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, and a 1975 graduate of Jericho High School.

The center, which could be completed in three years, would include a 500-seat auditorium, a pool, and spaces for classes and receptions.

Khan said a mosque in TriBeCa is overflowing with the faithful, and that another is needed in the area.

The society's sister group, the Cordoba Initiative, is also sponsoring the project.

Not everyone supports it. Rosemary Cain, a Massapequa resident whose son, firefighter George Cain, 35, was killed in the 2001 attacks, called the project "outrageous. It's a slap in the face to all the families of the victims and to the victims themselves who were murdered that day." She said she thought Muslims had not publicly condemned the Sept. 11 attacks enough.

Khan called the Sept. 11 attack "abhorrent" and said people critical of the mosque project "are operating from fear . . . and from not knowing who we are as a community. Extremists are a fraction of our community."

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