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JISHOU, HUNAN — The developer of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” sat down for an interview recently with a blogger at Beliefnet.com. Compared to the frothing-at-the-mouth demagogues opposing the project, Sharif el-Gamal espouses true American values: rational discourse and freedom of religion.

His interview is worth reading, because it contradicts the wild assertions made by the likes of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, co-founders of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA).

Geller and Spencer consistently object to proximity of the project, which includes a mosque, to the former site of the World Trade Center about two blocks away. They claim the Muslim-backed center will somehow “desecrate the sacred ground” of the ruined buildings which entombed about 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

el-Gamal’s response:

We are not at Ground Zero. In fact we’re as close to City Hall as we are to Ground Zero. Lower Manhattan is pretty small. You can’t see Ground Zero from our current building and on completion of our planned building some years from now, there won’t be any views of the Ground Zero memorial from the building. To honor those who were killed on September 11th, we have planned for a public memorial within our future facility as well as reflection space open to all.

He also mentions that there are two other mosques in Lower Manhattan, which are too crowded. He doesn’t mention that there two strip clubs also near the “sacred” WTC site.

Geller characterizes the project as a “Mega-Mosque,” like it’s huge. In fact, the project is mostly to build a community center, and the mosque

… will take up only a small portion of the final space. [It’s] a question of meeting a need. This mosque will be open to all. There are probably one million Muslims in the tri-state area and several hundred thousand in New York City. We should understand that Muslim New Yorkers are part of the city and have been for a very long time. Just a few days ago, I stopped to pray at a midtown mosque, and the congregation was led by a New York City Police Officer. He was a Muslim serving our city, keeping us safe.

Geller lives in the Bronx, so I suppose she complain about the project, though her home is miles away from Lower Manhattan. One wonders where she was on 9/11/01. Spencer is not a New Yorker, as far as I know, but he speaks as if he’s got the right to tell NYC what to do.

By contrast, where was el-Gamal on 9/11?

On September 11, 2001, I went down to the site of the attacks and spent two days handing out water to first responders and other victims. Hundreds of Muslims died on that day. New Yorkers of all faiths and no faiths died together. There are also hundreds of Muslims in our police force and fire department and many Muslims who volunteered to help the injured and the hurt. One of my close friends, a Muslim and a New Yorker, headed down to Ground Zero after the attacks, and helped set up a triage.

She was buried in the rubble when the towers collapsed, but she was dug out, thank God, and went right back to work. We understand the horror of that day because we lived it. Terrorists attacked our city and our country, and terrorists have continued to threaten our city and our country. We’re proud of the many Muslims who have worked with our fellow Americans to keep our city and country safe.

So, here’s the point. This project is by New Yorkers, for New Yorkers. It’s for the people who live and work in Lower Manhattan. No one is forcing Pamela Geller or Robert Spencer, or anyone else to visit the mosque. If they don’t like where it is, then they can just shut up. It’s none of their damn business.

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