Ground Zero Mosque: Olive Branch or 'Soft Jihad'?

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NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The construction of a mosque has been approved near Ground Zero that has many people, especially family members of 9/11 victims, upset.

Critics say it's not so much the mosque itself they find objectionable, but the location.

Eight and a half years after September 11, 2001, people still come to pay their respects and remember the nearly 3,000 lives that were lost when radical Muslims flew two hijacked American airliners into the World Trade Center towers. It was the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil.

We want to hear from you! What do you think about a mosque being built near Ground Zero? Tell us here on our CBN News Facebook discussion page.

Mixed Reviews

Today the Cordoba Institute's Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is pushing forward with a new mosque and community center near Ground Zero which he says will help bridge the gap and bring healing between Muslims and non-Muslims.

"By being in this location we get the attention and are able to leverage the voice of the vast majority of Muslims who condemn terrorism," Rauf said.

The 13-story mosque is set to be built in the old Burlington Coat Factory Building just two blocks from Ground Zero. In fact, Muslim prayers are already taking place there. For many, it's a cruel reminder of radical Islam that took the lives of their loved ones. For others, it's a way to move forward.

"Just like all other groups, you have some that are not desirable, but most are fine. I say go for it, this is New York!" one woman commented.

"I really don't see a problem with it," one man said. "You know, we have to move past this. This is something that happened 10 years ago."

Sacred Ground

However, Rosemary Cain sees the matter differently. She lost her son, George, a 35-year-old New York firefighter, on 9/11.

"It's yesterday to me, it's yesterday to me. Just this past week was George's birthday," Cain said.

"It's not the mosque, it's the location," she explained. "It's very offensive. New York City is a big place, there's a lot of areas around there. They could go further uptown, they could go wherever they want to go. Why they chose that place, I don't know. That's sacred ground."

"It's almost like it's taunting us," former New York City firefighter and 9-11 survivor Tim Brown said. "It's a slap in the face. There are so many places where they could go." 

Brown said he had two questions for the imam -- where is the $150 million coming from to build the mosque and where was the Muslim outrage after 9-11?

"We suspect that the money comes from places that he wants to hide," Brown said.

But Rauf has denied such charges.

"It's coming from all people who believe in peace and want to see a peaceful relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims," he said, insisting the Mosque's funding would have no ties to terrorist groups.

As for Muslim outrage, the imam said it was there - although Cain said she never heard any of it.

"It should have been loud and clear on Sept. 12," Cain said. "What we have heard and what we did see right after the attack were Muslims dancing in the streets in Brooklyn."

While Rauf admits mosques have often been used as places to preach jihad and hate against Americans, he says that will not be the case this mosque.

"This is an attempt to be part of the solution," he said. "We recognize that we're over a billion people worldwide, and there's a susceptibility for some of our young people to be drawn into these terrorist actions. We need to work together."

Soft Jihad?

But Middle East expert Daniel Pipes is suspicious of the imam's claims.

"Faisal Abdul is someone with a very dubious record," Pipes charged. "He's an Islamist. He's someone who has sympathy with our enemies more than with us. In other words, he wants to apply Islamic law. Granted he's not doing it via terrorism, but he's using his own methods of education, propagation in order to achieve the same goals."

Pipes and Brown say it's a well known Islamic tradition to build on top of an area that you've conquered.

"This is what we call a soft jihad," Brown said. "This is something where they're not doing it in our face, they're doing it very quietly, very stealthy."

There is something called 'takia' in their culture which says you're allowed to lie if it furthers the Muslim religion," he explained. "He is engaging in 'takia.'"

Meanwhile, the imam insists the mosque is not being built on Ground Zero but rather, "outside the perimeter of Ground Zero."

"If he could be right on top he would be, but he can't so he's as close as he can be," Pipes responded.

"This is a triumphant gesture on their part," Brown added. "That I will be praying at Ground Zero for the souls of my best friends and I will hear 'Allah Akbar' echoing through the canyons into my ears - that is the same war cry that those terrorist yelled as they flew the planes into the tower and killed Americans!"

The mosque is scheduled to open on Sept. 11, 2011. Fox News also reports that a second mosque is planned to be built near Ground Zero as well.

*Originally broadcast on May 18, 2010.

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