Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Muslim summit planned over N.Y.C. Islamic center

By David B. Caruso-Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A proposed Islamic center near ground zero is slowly being embraced by some Muslims who initially were indifferent about the plan, partly in response to a sense that their faith is under attack.

A summit of U.S. Muslim organizations is scheduled to begin Sunday in New York City to address both the project and a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric that has accompanied the nationwide debate over the project.

It has yet to be seen whether the groups will emerge with a firm stand on the proposed community center, dubbed Park51. The primary purpose of the meeting is to talk about ways to combat religious bigotry.

But Shaik Ubaid of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, one of the groups organizing the gathering, said he has a growing sense that some American Muslims who initially had trepidation are now throwing their support behind Park51.

“Once it became a rallying cry for extremists, we had no choice but to stand with Feisal (Abdul) Rauf,” he said, referring to the New York City imam who has been leading the drive for the center.

Groups scheduled to participate in the summit include the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim Alliance of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The private meetings were to take place at a hotel near Kennedy Airport, and the group was planning to hold a news conference Monday at the site of the proposed Islamic center.

Gauging support for the center among U.S. Muslims is difficult. As a group, they are diverse, ranging from blacks who found the faith during the civil rights movement to recent immigrants hailing from opposite ends of the globe. They rarely speak with one voice.

Yet after a pastor in Florida injected himself into the debate by threatening to burn copies of the Koran, U.S. Muslims stirred.

“I think most Muslims outside New York City are more concerned about the backlash than the actual center, which most of them will never directly benefit from,” said Shahed Amanullah, the editor-in-chief of the website altmuslim.com and a group of other Islam-themed sites.

“Grass-roots support is indeed building,” he said, “but that is probably more due to the pushback against the general hostile climate.”

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/sep/18/muslim-summit-planned-over-nyc-islamic-center/

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