January 14, 2011 / 7:59 PM / 8 years ago

Imam leaving NY mosque project near September 11 site

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York September 13, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The imam and his wife behind a controversial plan to build a Muslim cultural center and mosque near the site of New York’s September 11 attack are stepping down as leaders of the project, the center said on Friday.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan had become the public faces of the project, which they described as a cultural center open to everyone, as opposition to the project swelled last year from critics who said its location was insensitive.

The proposed 13-story, $100 million center called Park51 could be years away from completion. It would be two blocks from “Ground Zero,” where the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks toppled the Twin Towers killing nearly 3,000.

“Imam Feisal and Daisy Khan will not be speaking on behalf of Park51, nor will they be raising funds for the project,” Park51 said in a statement.

Rauf will remain on the center’s board of directors, it said.

Rauf has embarked on a U.S. speaking tour in which he intends to correct what he considers misperceptions about his aims and about Muslims in general.

Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Daniel Trotta and David Storey

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