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9/11 Anniversary: For Some, Mosque Debate Stirs Up Familiar Tensions

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The past nine years have been ripe with delays and disagreements over the construction of the September 11th memorial, museum and the World Trade Center complex. Adding to the discussion in recent months are plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque just two blocks from the site. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.

The ongoing debate over the proposed Islamic center and mosque near the World Trade Center site has reminded some in the Muslim community about a not-too-distant past.

"This kind of reminds me of how it was immediately after 9/11. This new anger and hatred and fear has really burst to the scene again," says New York Council on American-Islamic Relations President Zead Ramadan.

The days following the terrorist attacks on September 11th was a time when even Sikhs were subject to violence for being mistaken as Muslims.

"Indeed it was a nightmare for the Muslim community. Some Muslim leaders proposed we just close our mosque for a while," says Imam Shamsi Ali of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.

"Muslims would be walking down the street and people would shout slurs at them," recalls Ramadan.

Still, leaders in the community also remember the outpouring of support from neighbors and politicians, which they say was critical in helping to keep tensions from escalating even further. President George W. Bush visited a mosque in Washington, D.C. less than a week after the attacks to urge tolerance.

Imam Khalid Latif, a Muslim chaplain at New York University was an undergrad student at the school in 2001.

"Immediately after 9/11, churches and synagogues here in the village a lot of them opened their doors to us as Muslim students," recalls Latif.

In an effort to build bridges and promote understanding, Muslim leaders started to engage their fellow Americans more than ever about their faith. Reverend Chloe Breyer of the Interfaith Center of New York adds interfaith and activist groups also worked to make sure civil rights would not be a casualty of September 11th as well.

"I think we saw from 2003 to really about a year ago, or even nine months ago, an understanding that the balance between national security and civil rights was a delicate one and that we didn't want to sacrifice some of our most basic liberties in the attempt to protect our nation," says Breyer.

Now nine years later, with plans for an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero at the center of a national debate, no matter what the resolve, the emotions already stirred will continue to affect future dialogue and decisions.

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