By JENNIFER FERMINO
With Post Wire Services
Last Updated: 10:27 AM, August 20, 2010
Posted: 1:14 AM, August 20, 2010
The defiant wife of the cleric behind the planned mosque near Ground Zero vowed yesterday to go ahead with the project — calling it a “history-making moment” in the fight against “Islamophobia.”
Daisy Khan, who founded the project along with her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, said the increasing opposition — which she blamed on Republicans — has only caused organizers to become more committed.
“There is too much at stake, constitutional rights, the development of the Muslims here, how the world is watching the United States. We tell people America upholds religious freedom. We should not compromise those values,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Daisy Khan, wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the moving force behind the planned mosque near Ground Zero, had strong words about the project yesterday.
The furor surrounding the planned mosque and Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero has “only strengthened our supporters. None of them have caved. They are circling the wagons around us. They know they could be next.”
“We have too important a moment to back down. We have to take our opponents and transform them. We have to convince people that not all Muslims are extremists,” she said.
“We have to educate them on being able to distinguish between us and on the issue of Islamophobia.”
Khan spoke out about the mosque while her husband is in the Middle East on a goodwill trip sponsored by the US State Department.
Throughout the interview with columnist Sally Quinn, Khan repeatedly stressed the importance of moving forward with the project, which has stirred debate all over the country.
“What gives me strength [is that] we are in a history-making moment. Our ideals must prevail. We have to fight for a bigger society,” said Khan.
She said that she and her husband had received death threats and have informed the police.
Khan said the organizers “will have a dialogue” with the families of 9/11 victims, but added about the mosque site: “It is private property. To walk away without taking everything into consideration would be irresponsible.”
Instead of creating enemies, she said, she hopes this controversy will help people better understand Islam.
“We are debating about having a healing dialogue, building bridges, and this whole thing has turned into the opposite of what we have envisioned,” she said.
Khan said she is completely taken aback by the opposition.
She expressed surprise that “a community center for everyone in the neighborhood, to scale up and build up people of all religions, has become so skewed.”
The clamor around the mosque has become so deafening, she said, she’s afraid to turn on the TV.
“It’s hard to see yourself portrayed this way daily. But to me, it’s an indication that the post-9/11 controversy is not finished. It’s not over and neither is the healing. This is a teaching moment. A healing moment,” she said.
She blamed partisan strife for stirring up people’s emotions.
“It’s hard for us to imagine we are in the thick of a controversy like this. The Republicans are really going after us,” she said.
The uproar over the mosque, said Khan, shows that “there is still healing that needs to happen. There are bigger issues here and it’s also about how Muslims are perceived. When will Muslims be accepted as plain old Americans?”
“This is a bigger fight. This is a defining moment for us.”
Addressing one of the more controversial aspects of the project — who will pay the big bucks for its completion — she said that the fund-raising has not begun yet.
“On the advice of our attorneys, we wanted to clear the civic hurdles first,” she said.
Khan said that she and her husband have been talking to Muslims all over the United States about the project.
“It’s a major concern of the Muslim communities because it has sparked anti-Islam and anti-mosque feelings everywhere. Six mosques have already been prevented from being established. We have to be careful about every step we take. There are huge stakes in this,” she said.
She claimed that there has been little interest in her project from Muslims outside the United States, but said that might change since her husband began his tour of the Middle East.
A State Department spokesman said that Rauf might speak about the mosque during the tour.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he talks about the ongoing debate within the United States, as an example of our emphasis on religious tolerance and resolving questions that come up within the rule of law,” said department spokesman P.J. Crowley.
Rauf — who has been on several State Department tours, including two under former President George W. Bush — is not allowed to fund-raise on the trip.