Insiders say Muslim spiritual leaders behind the controversial initiative are considering giving up on the former World Trade Center location, in a gesture of appeasement.

By Shlomo Shamir

After weeks of heated debate over plans for an Islamic community center near Ground Zero – the site of the 9/11 attacks on New York – it seems Muslim leaders will soon back down, agreeing to move to a new site.

The decision follows a high-profile campaign against the project that included advertisements on New York buses showing images of the burning Twin Towers, an iconic landmark razed when al-Qaida terrorists flew packed passenger planes into them in 2001. The New York Republican party is also said to be planning a hostile television campaign.

Ground Zero Mosque Site

The site of a planned mosque is shown two blocks from the World Trade Center - Friday, Aug. 13, 2010 Photo by: AP

Sources in New York said on Monday that Muslim religious and business leaders will announce plans to abandon the project in the next few days.

New York Governor David Patterson said last weekend that Muslim leaders had rejected outright his proposal tto swap the site in for another in Manhattan.

But several people familiar with the debate among New York’s Islamic activists now claim that the leaders are convinced abandoning the site is preferable to unleashing a wave of bitterness towards Muslims.

They also hope the move will be seen as a show of sensitivity to families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and to the  American public generally.

Another factor in the apparent climbdown is a lack of funds to pay for construction of the center, estimated to cost a hundred million dollars. Backers hope moving it will lead to a wave of support, accompanied by cash donations.

It is also possible that the decision was also influenced by comments made by U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday, in which he appeared to reverse an earlier show of support.

Obama said that when he went on record backing the center, he meant only that it was the right of every religious group to establish its own places of worship – but he did not intend to justify building the center specifically at Ground Zero .

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