New Yorkers Hold Candlelight Vigil in Support of Islamic Center

Some 2,000 people gathered in downtown Manhattan Friday night to hold a candlelight vigil in support of a proposed 13-story Islamic center two blocks from the former World Trade Center.

Organized by New York Neighbors for American Values and over 100 other groups, the rally was a peaceful one as participants remembered 9/11 victims, showed their support for the Park51 Islamic center, and celebrated the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.

"This is the time when New Yorkers of all faiths and persuasions can come together in a respectful way to honor those who gave their lives on Sept 11.," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, according to

Vigil participant Shabnam Merali told NTD TV, "This Eid [al-Fitr] is very spiritual. Because coming here and looking at people, and it is exciting to see that American people are protesting for the mosque. They are so happy about it."

The Park51 project has been at the center of an impassioned debate over the threshold of America's religious tolerance.

A majority of Americans, some 71 percent according to a recent CBS poll, oppose the center and its proximity to Ground Zero and say that it should be moved farther.

Park51 supporters have defended the developers' constitutional rights to build the center and say that the project will promote religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue.

Leaders in the Muslim community, meanwhile, have said that intolerance against their religion has risen to levels beyond that of directly after the 9/11 attacks.

Several hate crimes, including the vandalism of mosques and the stabbing of a Muslim cab driver in New York City, have taken place since the controversy over the Islamic Center began.

Religious leaders from various faiths have banded together to denounce the acts of bigotry, saying that "attacking any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans."

Protests for and against the Park51 center have been planned for Saturday and Sunday.

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