Hamas nod for Ground Zero mosqueBy S.A. MILLER in Washington and TOM TOPOUSIS in New York
New York Post
August 16, 2010
A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero -- insisting Muslims "have to build" it there.
"We have to build everywhere," said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization's chief on the Gaza Strip.
"In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer," he said on "Aaron Klein Investigative Radio" on WABC.
"We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places."
Hamas, he added, "is representing the vast majority of the Arabic and Islamic world -- especially the Islamic side."
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who so far has not taken a position on the mosque, dismissed the endorsement.
"Hamas is a terrorist organization, and their views don't deserve any weight on anything," his spokesman said.
Zahar said Muslims around the world, including those who live in this country, are united in a common cause.
"First of all, we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation, totally different," he said.
"We already are living under the tradition of Islam.
"Islam is controlling every source of our life as regard to marriage, divorce, our commercial relationships," Zahar said.
"Even the Islamic people or the Muslims in your country, they are living now in the tradition of Islam. They are fasting; they are praying."
Politicians who previously had lots to say on the matter were not nearly as eager to discuss the latest development.
Despite his outspoken opposition to the building of a mosque so close to Ground Zero, Rep. Peter King (R-LI) said only, "I don't respond to Hamas."
Mayor Bloomberg, a strong supporter of the plan, declined comment through a spokesman.
Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the proposed mosque, and two other leaders of the plan who previously had commented extensively, were silent yesterday.
They did not respond to The Post's phone calls or e-mails about the Hamas endorsement.
Hamas first came up in the mosque debate earlier this summer when Abdul Rauf refused to describe the group as a terrorist organization -- despite the State Department listing that identifies it as such.
Tom Brown, a chief opponent of the mosque, said: "This is what we've been saying . . . Imam Rauf is a radical Muslim who will not call Hamas a terror group."
A retired firefighter who was a first responder on 9/11, Brown lost 100 of his FDNY friends at the Twin Towers.
"How much evidence do we need that this guy is a radical Muslim?" he asked.
"If Rauf really were a bridge builder and an interfaith guy and all the things he professes to be, he wouldn't be doing this to people."
Abdul Rauf raised eyebrows last week when he departed on a State Department-sponsored goodwill mission to the Middle East, despite concerns that the trip may be helping him with the mosque's $100 million fund-raising goal.
The Obama administration insisted the trip, reportedly with stops in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar, was strictly to improve understanding about Muslim communities in the United States.
But a London-based Arabic-language newspaper that interviewed Abdul Rauf reported that he said he would also collect money from Muslim and Arab nations around the world -- raising the possibility that the American government is helping him build contacts in oil-rich states.