Rauf was removed from his position as imam of the Ground Zero Mosque after an apparent dispute with the thuggish developer Sharif El-Gamal. So is he making promises that he can’t keep? And why, when he was at the center of the project, did he turn down offers from Donald Trump and others to buy the Ground Zero Mosque site at many times over market value?
“Cleric open to new site for Islamic center,” by Jay Tokasz in the Buffalo News, January 29:
The Muslim cleric at the center of a controversial plan to build an Islamic center near ground zero told The Buffalo News on Saturday he would consider another location for the project if a suitable site was offered.
“If someone is willing to offer another site … I would move,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who was in Western New York to address concerns about the project. “I would move because my whole life is about improving relationships with people, and once the project is established, it will have an impact.”
It was the first time Abdul Rauf appeared to back away from building the center two blocks from where the World Trade Center fell….
Any alternative site would have to be “on par, or even better,” than the current proposed site in a former coat store at 51 Park Place in Manhattan, where Abdul Rauf and real estate investor Sharif el-Gamal sought to build a 13-story center.
So far, no such offer has materialized, Abdul Rauf said in an interview with The Buffalo News editorial board.
Abdul Rauf also acknowledged that he and Gamal have different ideas of what the project should be, forcing Abdul Rauf to re-examine whether it was still possible to fulfill his vision for an interfaith center at the Park Place locale.
“Mr. Gamal is more focused on the Islam aspect than on the multifaith aspect of it,” said Abdul Rauf. “He came at this from the point of view of wanting to establish an Islamic center.”
Gamal has referred to the project as Park51; Rauf describes it as Cordoba House, a reference to a historical period in Cordoba, Spain, about 1,000 years ago when Muslims, Jews, and Christians coexisted and created a prosperous center of intellectual, spiritual, cultural and commercial life.
Whose vision will win out isn’t clear. Gamal has a sizable ownership stake in the Park Place property, but Abdul Rauf is well-known internationally among Muslims and is currently on an extended speaking tour to raise interest, and possibly money, for the project….