Hundreds stage opposing demos at ground zero Islamic site

August 23rd, 2010 - 2:18 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Aug 23 (IANS) Protesters against the construction of an Islamic community centre and a mosque near ground zero faced off Sunday with protesters in favour of the facility in New York, a media report said.
With chants and banners, hundreds of critics and supporters of the proposed centre in New York showed up despite an overcast and drizzly sky to express their views amid the national debate over the facility, CNN reported on its website.

Police estimated that by 11:30 a.m. supporters of the centre numbered up to 250, and critics numbered about 450.

A banner on the anti-centre side said: “Land of the free. Stop sharia before it stops you.” Another sign read, “No mosque here. Preserve the dignity of our loved ones killed on 9/11.”

Those in favour of the constructions said freedom of religion was the main issue in the debate.

“I am hoping there will be a more thoughtful discussion and that people realize it is just wrong — it is un-American — to paint an entire religion by the action of a few extremists,” one supporter said.

At the conclusion of the protest, those opposed to the construction marched by ground zero.

The Islamic centre’s leaders say the $100 million facility calls for a community centre including a mosque, performing arts centre, gym, swimming pool and other public spaces.

It will be built near where the World Trade Centre was destroyed by Islamic extremists on Sep 11, 2001. The attacks killed more than 2,700 people.

Some New Yorkers say an Islamic centre near the site is a painful affront.

The Coalition to Honour Ground Zero was organising the rally against the construction of the centre. The NYC Coalition to Stop Islamophobia staged the counter-protest.

Firefighters, families of the Sep 11 victims, first responders and residents of the neighbourhood will join the protests, organisers of the anti-centre protest said on their website.

On Sunday, Daisy Khan, who is heading the development of the project with her husband, said moving the project to another site is not under consideration for now.

She added that a move could be considered after consultations with “all major stakeholders”.

“We have to be very careful and deliberate in making any move,” Khan said.

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