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EDITORIAL: Politics could set dangerous precedent over mosque funding

Opposition to a mosque near Ground Zero is infused with grief, fear and anger. And now, political calculation has been added to the mix. That's too bad.

Because if you strip away the emotion of 9/11 - understandably tough, particularly for victims' families - what's left is an unremarkable plan for a 13-story, faith-based center, open to all, with features like recreational facilities, meeting rooms and an auditorium. Think the 92nd Street Y with one major difference: a space for Muslim prayer services.

Citing security concerns and misgivings about the imam heading the project, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio has asked state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic candidate for governor, to launch an investigation of the center's funding. Probing contributions to a religious organization to satisfy the politics of the moment risks setting a dangerous precedent.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf already leads a mosque in lower Manhattan and lists among his work key roles in organizations that promote understanding of Islam and improve relations with people of other faiths. He says the new center will be dedicated to those goals. It has the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and most city officials. The only remaining obstacle is the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

This project should be treated just like any other center. Nebulous suspicion and fear are no reason to derail any faith-based endeavor. hN

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