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It’s September 11, but mosque debate could overshadow ceremony

Dueling demonstrations are scheduled, but some who lost loved ones on that tragic day are furious. The city’s annual commemoration of the day the terrorists…

Dueling demonstrations are scheduled, but some who lost loved ones on that tragic day are furious.

The city’s annual commemoration of the day the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center has always been a somber affair, restricted to the reading of the names of those who perished and a solemn procession of family members into the pit.

This year, though, the ninth anniversary of 9/11 will be taken over by dueling demonstrations about the controversial proposal to build a mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero.

Those in favour of the mosque are expecting groups from all over the state and the nation to join them, saying the opposition is anti-Islamic.

“Why are we here today? We are here to address the rising tide of ethnic and religious hatred and intolerance that is sweeping our city,” Imam Al-Amin Abdul Latif, president of the Majlis Ash-Shura, said.

The imam is a member of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York, which demonstrated its feelings on the steps of City Hall Thursday. The group plans to join hundreds of others to demonstrate again on September 11. They want the mosque built right where it is — near Ground Zero.

“For people to make me walk by these people – the Muslims murdered my son – to walk by down there, I think it’s another slap in the face to us from the Muslim community when they should be extending an olive branch,” Jim Riches, who lost his firefighter son on 9/11, said.

“This is the epitome of disrespect,” 9/11 first responder Andy Sullivan said. “You’re talking about our sacred ground.”

There will also be a demonstration by those opposed to the mosque. The mayor, a staunch defender of the Constitution, is refusing to block either group.

“We will protect people’s rights to say what they want to say, whether they are in favor or against,” Bloomberg said. “Government just shouldn’t be in that business.”

A spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg said both sides have applied for demonstration permits on September 11. The 1st Police Precinct will decide how, when and where each is held.


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