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NY1 Exclusive: Gay Advocates Take Issue With Park51 Imam

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TWC News: NY1 Exclusive: Gay Advocates Take Issue With Park51 Imam
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A new religious leader at the Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan is raising eyebrows and objections from gay advocates over his views on homosexuality. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

A fight over the planned Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan centers around its location of being two blocks from the World Trade Center site. But now the controversy is broadening as some gay advocates are airing concerns about the new imam who's joined the project.

In a lecture Imam Abdallah Adhami sells on the Internet, he offers the following explanation for the existence of homosexuality:

"An enormously, overwhelming percentage of people struggle with homosexual feeling because of some form of violent emotional or sexual abuse at some point in their life. Again, not necessarily in their childhood....A small, tiny percentage of people are born with a natural inclination they cannot explain. You find this in the animal kingdom on some level as well."

For gay rights advocates, the words are unacceptable.

"They are destructive. They play into old, worn-out stereotypes that somehow there is an illness to being gay," said Gay City News Editor Paul Schindler.

Adhami joined the center known as Park51 as a senior advisor earlier this month. A spokesman for the project declined to make him available for an interview and would not comment for NY1's story.

Schindler says that unless Imam Adhami is willing to clarify or change his views, Park51's ability to welcome everyone will be compromised beyond repair.

"It's a hostile message and one that I think attacks the dignity of gay people," Schindler said.

Some prominent gay New Yorkers say even though they find the remarks made by the Park51 imam offensive, it's nothing they haven't heard before.

"It's not a new statement, it's been made repeatedly by people who practice homophobia as a way of life. It's also unfortunately not limited to one religion," said Gay Rights Activist David Mixner.

Openly gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma, who made a documentary of homosexuality and Islam, says Imam Adhami's remarks are not as bad as the anti-gay messages coming from other Muslim leaders. Many Christian and Jewish leaders also denounce homosexuality.

"I don't agree with the imam, but I think what he said is progress," said Sharma. "Usually, from the Muslim orthodoxy, you are prepared to listen to very strong words of condemnation."

Sharma says he wants to know whether the imam will be willing to welcome openly gay Muslims, like himself, into his congregation.

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