Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has thrust herself into a raging debate over a proposed Islamic community center and mosque that is being planned to sit just two blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
In a series of posts on her Twitter account, Palin was adamant that the project should not be built.
"Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand. Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in the interest of healing," Palin, the former Republican vice presidential candidate, wrote.
In a second message, she wrote, "Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real."
If nothing else, these latest messages from Palin, who has used both Facebook and Twitter to offer straightforward positions on a variety of touchy subjects, positions her strongly with conservatives who have been staunch in rejecting projects like the mosque and the incorporation of Islamic law, known as Shariah, in various aspects of American culture.
Rep. Peter King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, and former Rep. Rick Lazio, a Republican running for governor, also have raised questions about the proposal and called for an investigation of how the project would be financed.
"It's a house of worship, but we are at war with al-Qaida," King told The Associated Press. "I think the 9/11 families have a right to know where the funding comes from; I think there are significant questions."
The proposed 13-story, $100 million project has touched off an enormous controversy in New York City, according to ABC News.
The project would appear as a monument for terrorists, say some relatives of 9/11 victims. But the project's sponsors maintain the center would be all about bringing New Yorkers together, not tearing the community apart.
The American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, an organization seeking to improve relations between Islam and the West, has said it envisions the center operating like a YMCA, or the Jewish Community Center on Manhattan's upper West Side.
It would include a gym, swimming pool and performing space that could be used by anyone, as well as a mosque that could be used by Muslims who live or work in lower Manhattan, ABC reported.
In a written statement Sunday night, a spokeswoman for the project, Daisy Khan, told ABC, "We agree with Ms. Palin that it is time to heal from the wounds of the tragic events of 9/11. We peace- loving Muslims have a responsibility to lead the effort of rebuilding Lower Manhattan. We envision a community center for multi-faith collaboration that is focused on promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion."
"We welcome the opportunity to discuss with Ms. Palin how Muslim Americans have an added responsibility to create a counter-momentum against extremism by building institutions like this center, that will amplify the voices of the mainstream peace-loving Muslims," Khan said.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, has backed the mosque, as have several other community and political leaders, including Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who is the favorite for governor.
They say the project would send a powerful symbol of tolerance and religious freedom to the outside world.
The project received a renewed burst of national attention when CBS and NBC rejected an ad from the National Republican Trust PAC that crosscut footage of the 9/11 attacks with the sounds of Muslim prayer, according to Politico.
"On Sept. 11, they declared war against us," a narrator says. "And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at ground zero."
While a recent poll showed a majority of New Yorkers oppose the plan to build the mosque built near Ground Zero, an aide in Bloomberg's City Hall hit back at Palin, first tweeting “@SarahPalinUSA mind your business."
The aide, policy hand Andrea Batista Schlesinger, followed that up with:
"@SarahPalinUSA whose hearts? Racist hearts?"
Schlesinger deleted both tweets shortly after posting them.
The building housed a Burlington Coat Factory until 9/11, when a landing-gear part from one of the planes involved in the World Trade Center attacks smashed through the roof. It is currently used by Muslims every Friday for prayer service, according to ABC News.
The New York City community board for the World Trade Center neighborhood has backed the project. Opponents are trying to kill the plan by convincing the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to grant landmark status to the building that would house the center.
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