New York, May 27 (IANS) A community board has approved the construction of a mosque at the site of New York's World Trade Centre, which was destroyed in the September 11 terrorist attack, triggering protests by the victims' relatives in the city.
Relatives of 9/11 victims clashed with supporters of the proposed mosque near "Ground Zero", soon after members of Manhattan Community Board 1 approved the project with 29-1 votes. Nine members abstained the voting which concluded after four hours of debate.
The board has no official say over whether the estimated $100 million mosque and community centre gets built. But the panel's support is considered important in influencing public opinion, according to New York Post.
The protesters, carrying photos of victims killed in the Twin Towers and signs such as, "Honor 3,000, 9/11 -- No mosque!" described the plan as an insult to the terror-attack victims.
"That is a burial ground," said retired FDNY Deputy Chief Al Santora, referring to the fact that victims' remains were scattered for blocks.
Santora's 23-year-old son, Christopher, was the youngest firefighter to die that day.
"I do have a problem with having a mosque on top of the site where [terrorists] can gloat about what they did," said Santora, with his wife, Maureen, by his side.
However, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, head of the Cordoba Institute, which is in charge of the project, insisted the site would help "bridge the great divide" between Muslims and the rest of America.
"We are Americans, we are Muslim Americans," Rauf said. "Many of us were born in the United States. We have no higher aspirations than to bring up our children in peace and harmony in this country."
Before the meeting, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a supporter of the mosque, said, "What we're rejecting here is outright bigotry and hatred".
Catholic priest Kevin Madigan, of St. Peter's Church, which is about a block away, said: "I think they need to establish a place such as this for people of goodwill from mainline Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths so we can come together to talk".