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Imam 'Exploring Options' On Where To Put Mosque

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The imam who hopes to create a mosque and Muslim Cultural Center two blocks from Ground Zero says he's surprised by the uproar over the project. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf says the street, which is already home to a strip club and a betting parlor, is not sacred ground. But he says he's "exploring all options" about the project's future.

: to fight extremism in all religions. The imam is leading the effort to build an Islamic center and mosque near the World Trade Center site. He spoke in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, and he said that many options are being explored to resolve the dispute around the proposed center.

NPR's Margot Adler reports.

MARGOT ADLER: Imam Abdul Rauf talked personally about his own spiritual journey as a Muslim and an American citizen. He said he observes the rituals of his religion and prays at least five times a day.

FEISAL ABDUL RAUF: And I am also a proud American citizen. Let no one forget that. I vote in elections, I pay taxes, I pledge of alliance to the flag, and I am a Giants fan.

ADLER: The imam made his remarks two days after the anniversary of 9/11, when contentious demonstrations opposing and supporting the proposed center took place. Abdul Rauf said both American teachings and the teachings of his faith had nourished him, and that that was the same for many Americans.

H: Terrorists corrupt the meaning of our faith; we cannot let them define us.

ABDUL RAUF: Radical extremists would have us believe in a theory of a worldwide battle between Muslims and non-Muslims, and some intellectuals and thinkers have furthered that idea.

The real battle that we must wage together today is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all the faith traditions against the extremists of all the faith traditions.

ADLER: As to the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque, the imam said many options were being explored. He did not say whether these options included moving the center. He did say that the site is a couple of blocks from ground zero, near betting parlors and strip joints, and that it was disingenuous to call that block sacred ground.

Margot Adler NPR News, New York.

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