Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has long worked to bridge divisions, be they fissures between interfaith husbands and wives or political chasms separating the United States and the Muslim world.
The 61-year-old clergyman is now in the midst of a polarizing political, religious and cultural debate over plans for a multistory Islamic center that will feature a mosque, health club and theater about two blocks north of ground zero. He is one of the leaders of the Park51 project, but has largely been absent from the national debate over the implications of building a Muslim house of worship so close to where terrorists killed more than 2,700 people.
Though Rauf has said the center, which could cost more than $100 million, would serve as a space for interfaith dialogue, moderate Muslim practice and peaceful prayer, critics say it will create a base for radical, anti-American Islam. Some critics have also asked where the funding for the center might originate and whether it may come from sources linked to Muslim extremists.
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