Most New Yorkers Want Islamic Center Moved: Poll

A poll released last week by the New York Times shows that nearly two-thirds of New York City residents want a proposed 13-story Islamic center near the former World Trade Center to be moved farther from its current site.

The survey, based on telephone interviews with nearly 900 adults, showed that most New Yorkers would like to see the proposed center, which is currently two blocks from the 9/11 crash site, move anywhere from five to 20 blocks away from Ground Zero.

The poll further showed that a similar number of respondents support developers' rights to construct the center, although even 38 percent of those supporters would like to see the project moved.

The results are in line with earlier surveys that showed that a majority of Americans do not approve of the center being built, although the New York Times poll is the first to show that disapproval being linked to sensitivity issues.

A poll released in August by Quinnipiac University showed that 52 percent of New York City residents do not want the center to be built, although a similar number said they believe mainstream Islam to be a "peaceful religion." About one-fifth of the poll's respondents said that Islam "encourages violence against non-Muslims."

Debate over the Park51 project has been heated for months now, with both opponents and proponents attempting to define the character of the country's religious tolerance.

President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have strongly supported building the center on the basis of religious freedom rights, although Mr. Obama later said his comments were not related to the "wisdom" of Park51's location.

Other politicians, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, have decried the center as an "insult" and a "provocation."

New York Governor David Paterson recently offered state support to move the center to a different location, although Park51 developers have been hesitant to take his offer.

Two weeks ago, Paterson said that the debate over the center had "gotten out of hand" as he referred to a cab driver in New York City who was stabbed after telling his passenger that he was Muslim.

Tensions over the Park51 project and incidents like the stabbing and other anti-Muslim hate crimes have led many American Muslims to fear for their safety.

"I am more scared than I've ever been - more scared than I was after Sept. 11," Eboo Patel, a founder and director of Interfaith Youth Core, told the New York Times.

Fears have risen at the approach of this year's anniversary of 9/11, which happens to coincide with the end of the Muslim observance of Ramadan.

A large 9/11 protest rally against Park51 has been planned by the group Stop Islamization of America, who is already running bus advertisement against the center.

Other planned 9/11 demonstrations include one from the Dove World Outreach Center, a small group of 50 evangelical Christians in Florida, who are planning to burn Qurans.

The church's plans have been widely denounced by evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and other religious and political figures alike, the latest of whom is General David Petraeus, commander of the operation in Afghanistan, who said that such a demonstration could threaten the war effort.

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort," Petraeus told The Wall Street Journal on Monday. "It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."

Despite the criticism and the denial of a permit to perform the demonstration, the Florida church has said they will go ahead with their plans anyway.

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