for usatoday.com on Oct. 29, 2010
A Saudi prince who has aided the imam spearheading Park51, the proposed Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero, says it would be better to shift to another site not associated with the Sept. 11 attacks.
In an interview with the Dubai-based Arabian Business magazine, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal says moving the center, which includes a mosque, other education and recreation facilities would respect the wounds still felt by New Yorkers.
Associated Press says this reportedly the prince's first public comments on the dispute.
In the interview, he says he contributed to the foundation of New York's Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, but says, "We did not finance this thing," according to excerpts published on the magazine's website Thursday. The full interview will be published Sunday.
The prince gave two reasons for supporting a new location.
"Those people behind the mosque have to respect, have to appreciate and have to defer to the people of New York, and not try to agitate the wound by saying 'we need to put the mosque next to the 9/11 site'.
"The wound is still there. Just because the wound is healing you can't say 'let's just go back to where we were pre-9/11',"
He also says a mosque (a small but hotly disputed portion of the community center plans) should be in a "refined" neighborhood, not "inserted and squeezed (in) to a neighborhood that currently includes a strip club.
Still, he says, "I believe that Christians have the right to build churches where they want and Jews have the right to put synagogues where they want and Muslims have the right to put a mosque where they want. But you have to take care and respect the dignity of those New Yorkers who have been hit badly. Ten years ago is nothing when you talk about history."