Some Muslims whose relatives risked their lives on 9/11 to help the injured or recover bodies have come forward to support the opening of a mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero.
Talat Hamdani, 58, a mother from Lake Grove who lost her son on 9/11, faced a raucous audience last week at a Lower Manhattan Community Board 1 meeting. In the audience were some people fiercely opposed to it.
"My knees were shaking . . . My whole body was shaking. But I had to do it," said Hamdani of her appearance, explaining she felt the mosque would help honor the memory of her son.
Mohammad Salman Hamdani was 23 and a certified EMT and NYPD cadet who died after he answered the citywide call for all emergency personnel on Sept. 11, his mother said.
"I had to fight a concerted effort by some who did not want to acknowledge my son's sacrifice because he was a Muslim. If I didn't speak up my son might have gone down as a terrorist," she said.
"The mosque at Ground Zero is essential to bring healing to our divided nation," she said. "We have to rise above this. We are not at war with the Islam world."
The plan to build a mosque has triggered protests from some 9/11 survivors and family members of victims who believe it is an insult to those who died.
An organization called Stop Islamization of America is calling for a demonstration in front of Ground Zero Sunday to protest the plans for a mosque.
Rudi Odeh-Ramadan, 41, executive director of clinical treatment at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, defended Muslims' right to build a mosque at Ground Zero at the Lower Manhattan meeting with her 6-year-old son at her side.
"I don't want him to grow up feeling ashamed of who he is, and I'm not sorry that I'm a Muslim," she said.