Highs: The man behind Park51 (a.k.a. the Ground Zero mosque), Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, was praised early on as a moderate Muslim leader needed in a post-Sept. 11 world one who promoted peace and understanding between Islam and the West. In August, his center jumped over the last legal and zoning hurdles to begin construction on the modern Islamic cultural center, which would include an auditorium, a pool and a memorial to those killed on Sept. 11, as well as a mosque. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg forcefully and publicly backed the construction of the Islamic center, which is set to be built in lower Manhattan.
Lows: Imam Rauf was demonized by those on the right who believed he was building a mosque on sacred ground just two blocks from the World Trade Center site. Conservatives cherry-picked quotes that they falsely claimed demonstrated the imam's praise of the kind of Islamic extremists that attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11. He and his wife both received death threats, and the controversy triggered a nationwide conversation about the limits of religious tolerance in the United States and whether Islamophobia was on the rise. The debate also put the spotlight on Pastor Terry Jones, who threatened to hold an "International Burn a Koran Day" that was, in part, a response to the proposed Islamic Center in lower Manhattan.
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