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Prince al-Waleed backs moving the Manhattan mosque

Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal has been one of the most intriguing figures in the debate over the "Ground Zero Mosque." al-Waleed is both a funder of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s proposed Park51 Islamic Center through his Kingdom Foundation and a part-owner of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the parent company of Fox News, whose on-air ...

Karl Jeffs/Getty Images
Karl Jeffs/Getty Images

Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal has been one of the most intriguing figures in the debate over the "Ground Zero Mosque." al-Waleed is both a funder of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s proposed Park51 Islamic Center through his Kingdom Foundation and a part-owner of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the parent company of Fox News, whose on-air personalities have led the charge against the project. Jon Stewart, in particular, has had a field day with awkwardness this has caused for Fox.

But now, in his first public comments on the controversy, al-Waleed seemed to be taking the Fox News line in an interview with an Arabic business magazine:

Prince Alwaleed urged the backers of the proposed Islamic center not to "agitate the wound by saying, ‘We need to put the mosque next to the 9/11 site.’"

"Those people behind the mosque have to respect, have to appreciate and have to defer to the people of New York," the prince was quoted as saying by the magazine, which said the full interview will be published Sunday. "The wound is still there. Just because the wound is healing you can’t say, ‘Let’s just go back to where we were pre-9/11.’"

Prince Alwaleed, who chairs a Saudi investment company that has major stakes in international giants News Corp. and Citigroup, also said Muslims in New York should consider a more "dignified" location than the proposed site in lower Manhattan.

"It can’t be next to a bar or a strip club, or in a neighborhood that is not really refined and good. The impression I have is that this mosque is just being inserted and squeezed over there," he said.

Rauf has already rejected the advice, saying, "we plan to build the community centre in this location because we have been part of Lower Manhattan for decades and we want to better serve the needs of our neighbours of all faith traditions." The project’s co-chairman Shaikh Ubaid piled on, adding, "If Prince Alwaleed cares about Muslims in America, then he should take his money out of News Corp."

The timing of the prince’s remarks is a little strange. The furor over the project has largely died down as America’s culture-warriors have moved on to fresh outrages. Why would he want to stir it up again? Then again, as Simon Henderson writes, al-Waleed’s political instincts have always been questionable at best.

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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