Plans made by a New York City community board to construct a mosque on Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 attacks, came in for opposition from a new and unexpected quarter this week — the Anti-Defamation League, described as an “influential Jewish organisation”.

In a statement the ADL said that given there were strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site, it believed the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found. The organisation added, “In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.”

However in a reference to attacks faced by the promoters of the site, the Cordoba Initiative, especially from right-wing political groups and Republican Party leaders such as Sarah Palin, the ADL said, “The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair and wrong... Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam.”

Yet the ADL said in its judgment, the construction of an Islamic Center “in the shadow of the World Trade Center” would cause some victims unnecessary pain. Ultimately, this was not a question of rights, but a question of what was right, the organisation said in a statement.

In May this year, the Manhattan community board had fiercely debated but ultimately endorsed the plan to build a mosque on the site, by a vote of 29-to-1. The decision was attacked shortly thereafter by Tea Party leaders such as Mark Williams, who made disparaging remarks about Islam, terrorism and the purpose of having a mosque. Yet given the extreme nature of the comments by Mr. Williams, New York community authorities were quick to reiterate their support for the mosque proposal.

Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer at the time had said, “When a hate-filled individual like Mark Williams spreads lies intended to injure millions of Americans, incite bigotry, and undermine our democracy, we must stand up and respond with the truth.”

The Cordoba Initiative, which is leading the mosque’s development, is about “moderate American Muslims who are the vast majority of the Muslim in the world and who condemn terrorism and 9/11”, according to founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. The Imam said the community had been and wanted to continue to be part of a coalition of Muslims and non-Muslims that worked to eliminate terrorism.

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