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New York Imam Says Islamic Center Will Proceed

The U.S. imam leading plans for an Islamic center near the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York says the project will continue.

In an opinion piece published in Wednesday's New York Times newspaper, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said the debate about the center reflects American values, including "recognition of the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship."

He also noted the support of President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, saying their statements send a "powerful message about what America stands for."

Rauf said the community center will have separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and those of other faiths.

It will also have a multifaith memorial to the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

More than 2,600 people were killed when al-Qaida hijackers crashed two planes into the World Trade Center buildings.

Opponents of the center say it is disrespectful to build a mosque a few blocks from the site.

Rauf said there will be "interest" in how the project is financed, and that all of the financial backers will be clearly identified.

He also said the project, called the Cordoba House, has "the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from all across the religious spectrum."

Rauf returned last week from a 15-day trip to the Arabian Gulf sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

He said during the trip that he believes the protests against the center are linked to the November U.S. elections. He also said U.S.-Muslim relations are strained, and are being made worse by misinformation.