NY mosque near Sept. 11 site wins approval

Tue Aug 3, 2010 4:30pm GMT

By Karina Ioffee

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York city agency on Tuesday cleared the way for construction of a Muslim cultural centre near the site of the September 11 attacks.

In a case that triggered national debate, the City Landmarks Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status for an old building currently on the site of the planned centre.

Opponents of the Muslim centre, which would include a mosque, say it will be a betrayal of the memory of victims of the September 11 attacks, which were carried out by the militant Muslim group al Qaeda with hijacked passenger planes.

Critics had hoped to stall the project by having the 1857 Italianate building declared a historic landmark worthy of protection because pieces from one of the hijacked planes hit it.

Commission members argued the building, situated among a row of businesses about a block from attack site, held no historic value and their vote will allow the old building to be demolished.

At least one more legal challenge looms but the commission's ruling will clear the way for construction of the Cordoba House, which will include a prayer room and a 500-seat auditorium as part of a 13-story Muslim cultural complex.

"We are grateful to the Landmarks Commission," said Sharif El-Gamal, chairman and CEO of Soho Properties, which owns the building. "It has been a whirlwind for the past four months, during which we have worked tirelessly to realise an American dream which so many others share."

The commission's vote attracted several people with signs reading "This mosque celebrates our murders" and "Don't glorify murders of 3,000."   Continued...

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