And that the imam who's being branded an extremist has been valued by both Republican and Democratic administrations as a moderate face of the faith.
Even so, the project stirs complicated emotions, and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a complex figure who defies easy categorization in the American Muslim world.
He's devoted much of his career to working closely with Christians, Jews and secular leaders to advance interfaith understanding. He's scolded his own religion for being in some ways in the "Dark Ages." Yet he's also accused the U.S. of spilling more innocent blood than al-Qaida, the terrorist network that turned the World Trade Center, part of the Pentagon and four hijacked airplanes to apocalyptic rubble.
Many Republicans and some Democrats say the proposed $100 million Islamic cultural center and mosque should be built elsewhere, where there is no possible association with New York's ground zero. Far more than a local zoning issue, the matter has seized congressional campaigns, put President Barack Obama and his party on the spot - he says Muslims have the right to build the mosque - divided families of the Sept. 11, 2001, victims, caught the attention of Muslims abroad and threatened to blur distinctions between mainstream Islam in the U.S. and its radical elements.
Image: The site of a proposed mosque on Park Place is seen in lower Manhattan in New York on Aug 16, 2010.
Text & Images: AP