“We condemn terrorists. We recognize it exists in our faith, but we are committed to eradicate it,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is leading the charge to build the Cordoba House.
“We want to rebuild this community,” he said. “This is about moderate Muslims who intend to be and want to be part of the solution.”
Rauf appeared with city leaders Thursday at 45 Park Place, the future home of the Cordoba House less than three blocks from Ground Zero.
The meeting came one day after Tea Party Express chairman Mark Williams called the project a monument to 9/11 attackers “for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god.”
Williams later issued a ham-handed apology to the “millions of Hindus who worship Lord Hanuman, an actual Monkey God.”
Asked about Williams’ comment, Rauf said he was “surprised by the lies, by the bigotry.”
The 13-story Cordoba House will include a mosque, fitness center, pool, classrooms, kitchens and a theater for lectures and performances, developers say.
They say the Cordoba House was modeled after the 92nd St. Y, with the benefits of a community center with prayer space.
Another mosque – much smaller than the Cordoba plan – has existed downtown on Warren St. since 1970 and has been operating out of 20 Warren St. since 2008.
Although there have been critics, including some relatives of 9/11 victims, the Cordoba project has the support of virtually every lower Manhattan politician and Community Board 1.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of bigotry associated with this,” said CB1 president Julie Menin. “If we’ve learned any lesson from 9/11, it’s to respect people’s religious freedoms.”
“Our city’s open to anybody, no matter what your religion is,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Still, some are voicing outrage at the idea of a mosque near the hallowed ground where Islamic terrorists waged war on America.
“By no means am I saying the folks trying to build this place are responsible for 9/11, but you still have to take a hard look at it and say how will it look to have this in your face?” said Patrick Bahnken, head of the union that represents paramedics.
“It is like salt in the wound – a constant reminder of what they did to us on 9/11.