The imam behind a plan to build an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero said the debate has been "hijacked by radicals," and took on Sarah Palin and other opponents of the project Sunday.


Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told ABC's Christiane Amanpour that certain politicians had opposed the project to further their political ambitions.

"This project was front page news in The New York Times last December," said Rauf. "No one objected."

"What has happened, since May -- five, six months later -- for political reasons, certain politicians decided that this project would be very useful for their political ambitions," he said.

"Sarah Palin made a famous Tweet saying please reconsider, the feelings are too raw," Amanpour recalled. "What did you think about that?" she asked the imam.

"I found it disingenuous to a certain extent. The fact of the matter is, this has been used for political purposes. And there is growing Islamophobia around the country," replied Rauf.

Rauf also said there is no comparison between the lower Manhattan mosque and Koran-burnings.

"How can you equate burning of any person's scripture with an attempt to build interfaith dialogue?" Rauf asked. "This is a house with multi-faith stakeholders, with multi-faith partners intended to work together toward building peace."

Rauf admitted that if he had known the mosque would blow up into such a contentious issue he would not have planned it for that location. But he said that now that it has become a political issue, moving the mosque could send the wrong message.

"If we make the wrong move, it will only expand and strengthen the voice of the radicals and the extremists," he said.

This video is from ABC's This Week, broadcast Sept. 12, 2010.


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