Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Ground Zero mosque: Backers regret causing upset

The backers of a proposed Islamic centre near Ground Zero in New York say they regret the upset caused by a plan they thought would be simple and uncontroversial.

Hisham Elzanaty, an Egyptian-born businessman who says he provided most of the money to buy the two buildings where the centre would be built, said he has always viewed the project primarily as an investment opportunity, and would sell some of the site for the right price.

And the imam who has been designated the centre's spiritual leader told CNN that if he had realised how some Americans would react to the location, he would have picked some other spot. "If I knew this would happen, if it would cause this kind of pain, I wouldn't have done it," Feisal Abdul Rauf said.

Both men, however, said they strongly support keeping the centre at its current location. Mr Rauf said moving it now would create the perception that "Islam is under attack" in America and would make it easier for radicals to attract recruits.

The challenges facing the project extend far beyond the debate over its location, and include conflicting interests among the key backers.

Mr Elzanaty said that although he supports the building of a 13-storey Islamic centre on the property he helped buy, he needs to make a profit.

He said one of the buildings is worth millions of dollars if it is redeveloped, and he intends to seize the opportunity.