Muslim groups decry hostile atmosphere

September 1, 2010 3:32:44 PM PDT
More than 50 leaders of Muslim organizations in New York City are defending plans by developers to build an Islamic community center near ground zero.

Members of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York gathered on the steps of City Hall Wednesday to call for a stop to religious intolerance.

They said the notion that Muslims shouldn't gather or pray near the 9/11 site is "unethical, insensitive and inhumane."

The group was joined by supporters including U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel.

At noon there was a prayer for peace.

A group of about 50 imams spoke out against bigotry, which they say is the root cause behind so much opposition to that Islamic center and mosque near ground zero.

"We ask you to respect that which is sacred to your fellow citizens, our God Allah, is the god of all mankind. It is sacred to us," Imam Al-Amin Abdul Latif said.

At the same time, Islamic leaders released three new TV ads, in the hopes it will enlighten those who know little about the Muslim faith.

"I'm a New York City firefighter and I responded to 9/11 and I am a Muslim," the ad says.

"Who are they to lecture us about Islamophobia or about racial intolerance?" said retired FDNY firefighter, Tim Brown.

Tim Brown, a firefighter who survived 9/11, has a problem with Wednesday's campaign.

He says bigotry has nothing to do with opposition to that Islamic center and mosque.

"Nobody said they don't have a right to build it, but we have a right to question it, to question whether it's right or wrong," Brown said.

Sources say it's their understanding some kind of a rift has developed between the imam here and the developer at this site.

But it's not yet known how that might affect the already cloudy future of a mosque and Islamic center near ground zero.