The public face behind the controversial Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, will be stepping down from his role. The non-profit organization Park51 announced Friday that Imam Abdallah Adhami will be replacing Rauf as senior advisor.
Rauf will remain on the board, but is focusing on his global movement to fight extremism. According to a statement from Park51, Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan will no longer be raising funds for the project or giving statements on behalf of the project.
The plan for the Islamic cultural center would entail a 15- to 16-story building with two separate sections: one with a mosque, the other with a swimming pool, wellness center, culinary school, restaurant and a 500-seat auditorium. Park51 is hoping to raise $100 million for the project, which will occupy the old Burlington Coat Factory building several blocks from the World Trade Center.
Around the anniversary of 9/11, the project became a lightning rod for critics who claimed a Muslim institution so close to the World Trade Center would be insensitive.
The newly appointed Imam Adhami was born in Washington D.C., and received an architecture degree from Pratt Institute. He is the first of several imams who will be brought in to advise and shape the religious part of the project.
The Chairman of the Islamic Center of Long Island, Habib Ahmad, said it's a good idea to hire a number of imams and take the focus off of one person.
"If the whole burden is on your shoulder it would be very difficult, so I think it is better if there is a panel of imams there and they take turns on Fridays giving sermons and things like that."
A Park 51 spokesperson said over the next couple of weeks they'll also be announcing a new executive director, a post that has not been staffed before at the planned cultural center and mosque.