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Local Muslims React To Controversy Over Ground Zero Islamic Center

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By Sanaz Meshkinpour

Opponents of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York have been vocal and insistent. Washington-area Muslim leaders speak to where Muslim-American voices have been.

Asma Hanif, chair person of the area's Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations, doesn't see the point of going head-to-head with protesters or conservative pundits.

"I don't think that it's going to make a difference. You will never be able to stay ahead of individuals who have an inherent anger, or dissatisfaction, or distrust, or whatever it is their feeling against Muslims," says Hanif.

But she says that doesn't mean you can't do anything.

Imam Mohamed Magid of the Adams Society sees the ground zero controversy as an opportunity to discuss religious tolerance in America, with a measured, rational approach.

"Be patient, and to reach out more to the neighbor, to have a mosque without wall," says Magid.

And he mainly does that through interfaith dialogue with local Christian and Jewish groups.

The friendly person-to-person approach has an advantage. A poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life last year found that Americans who knew about Islam and knew Muslims personally were more likely to have favorable attitudes toward them.

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