The imam at the center of the proposed mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan spoke out Wednesday night in his first television appearance on the controversial subject. NY1's Grant Greenberg filed the following report.
Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf says he never thought the proposed mosque and muslim community center near the site of the September 11th attacks would cause so much controversy.
During an appearance Wednesday on CNN's "Larry King Live," Rauf says moving the project isn't off the table, but if things are not done right, anger will explode overseas, put U.S. soldiers in danger and become a national security issue.
"The story will be that the radicals have taken over the discourse. The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack," Rauf said.
The imam stresses that freedom of religion is why so many people love America and that what happens here has enormous impact on the rest of the world.
"People all over the Muslim world admire America, love America. They take America as an example in many, many respects," Rauf said.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll says two-thirds of Americans want the mosque moved.
Rauf blames politicians for all the recent protests and making this an issue. He says the New York Times first reported it on the front page a year ago and that no one complained until campaign season.
"This concept of separation of religion and politics or church and state has a wisdom behind it. And the purpose behind it is not to politicize religion, because when you politicize religion it is dangerous," he said.
Rauf has been an imam at a mosque about 10 blocks from the World Trade Center site for decades. He says developer Sharif El Gamal is part of that congregation. Now that the Muslim community outgrew that location, he says El Gamal found a spot where they could build a bigger mosque and a community center much like the YMCA and 92nd Street Y. He says people of all faiths will be welcomed and there will even be a September 11th memorial inside.
"You cannot heal a trauma by walking away from it," Rauf said. "We have to sit down, we have to talk about it, we have to dialogue about it and find a way to move through it and beyond it."
Meanwhile, the development -- also known as Park51 -- may not be able to move ahead at all. The Associated Press reports one of the project's major investors is considering pulling out because of the protests.
According to the AP, the businessman says he's in this to make money and is thinking about just selling the buildings for a profit instead of building the mosque.