NEW YORK (Reuters) - Opponents and supporters of a planned Muslim cultural center and mosque near the site of New York’s World Trade Center will mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks with dueling events.
A national debate has erupted over whether the Muslim center should be constructed two blocks from the site of the 2001 attacks by al Qaeda which destroyed the World Trade Center towers and killed close to 3,000 people.
The group Stop Islamization of America will hold an afternoon rally in lower Manhattan on the anniversary following the annual memorial service honoring victims of the attacks.
The group said the list of speakers would include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders and family members of those killed on 9/11.
Muslim and Arab-American groups will meet later this week to discuss how to mark the anniversary, which could coincide with the Muslim holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr.
“We’re not going to do (a rally) across the street. That’s not the approach that we’re doing,” said Linda Sarsour, the director of the Arab American Association of New York.
She said the coalition is considering a large community service project, interfaith dinner and other events to promote understanding.
This Sunday, groups for and against the center are also planning marches in downtown Manhattan.
Plans for the project, called the Cordoba House, include a 13-story building to house a prayer space, auditorium, swimming pool and meeting rooms. The planned structure is architecturally plain and does not include a minaret or dome -- motifs often associated with mosques.
Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Mark Egan and Alan Elsner