Daisy Khan, wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and co-founder of the proposed Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero, says that the controversy around the proposed Park51 development indicates a "widespread ignorance of Islam." Speaking to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, she added that
I think it's un-American for people to lump an entire religious group with the actions of a few extremists.
Khan explains that stakes are high in the conversation around the proposed development:
This is the fate of the Muslim community, you know. Our entire future is at risk here. So many mosques have been under attack since this project was announced. And the Muslim community is taking this very seriously and taking a real pause. For instance, the Koran burning ceremony has so many negative implications if that goes forward. And I know the Muslim community in Gainesville, Florida is actually interacting directly with the pastor to speak to him, to plead to his better self. And, so everybody is stepping up to the plate. You know this is Ramadan. And our Ramadan has not been the same.
"Here we are with the confluence of Eid (the end of Ramadan) on 9/10, the day before 9/11," Lehrer asked. "If your center was open now, what would your programming look like?"
Our memorial would be open to every family member, we would be having prayers in all different religions and cultures for 9/11 family victims. We do plan to have a 9/11 memorial in the center. We would be talking about extremism and how we can combat it. There would be an open door where people would be invited to break the feast and enjoy the company of fellow Muslims. It would be a place where we would replace fear with a celebration of our commonalities of our diversity.
Ultimately, Khan blames the controversy on a widespread misunderstanding of Islam in America.
It just shows there is widespread ignorance of Islam. And we have to-- the whole Muslim community now has to work very hard to reach out to ordinary Americans who really have no interaction with Muslims and they're views are largely shaped by what they see on television.
"How have you been over the last few weeks?" Lehrer asked.
I think that the word would be completely overwhelmed. And I keep asking myself every morning that I come to work, how did we get involved in this. It is unprecedented. We're not public people. We're not public figures and we find ourselves in the midst of the largest controversy of my life.
The full interview with Daisy Khan will air at 11am on Friday, September 10th, on The Brian Lehrer Show.