NEW YORK (CBS 2/WCBS 880) – Donald Trump tried, but got flatly rejected. Pastor Terry Jones put the country at ease, but is now having second thoughts.
Needless to say, Thursday’s edition of “as the ground zero mosque turns,” took the nation on a wild ride, one that changed seemingly by the hour and appears to be nowhere close to being resolved.
Moments after real estate mogul Trump offered to put up the cash to stop the mosque from being built, the leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy said he was canceling plans to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11.
Then Trump got trumped by the mosque investors and Jones said he was lied to and is now considering reinstating his controversial protest on 9/11.
On top of all that, the Muslim cleric behind the proposed downtown Islamic center said it may be too late to move his mosque further away from ground zero.
In a letter faxed out late Thursday, Trump tried to end the mosque controversy with his checkbook, but it appears the investors are not interested in “The Donald’s” money.
Trump wrote a letter to investor Hisham Elzanaty making an “offer to purchase your site,” meaning the location at 45 Park Place “for what you paid plus 25 percent.”
He added, though, “It would be agreed that if you or your representative were to build a mosque it would be located at least five blocks further from the World Trade Center site.”
However, Wolodymyr Starosolsky, a lawyer for the investor in the real estate partnership that controls the site, said Trump’s offer is “just a cheap attempt to get publicity and get in the limelight.”
He added that the offer’s lack of seriousness was evident in the price. He said the real estate partnership had already received two offers in the ballpark of $20 million. The group collectively paid $4.8 million one of the two buildings on the site.
“He knows what the value of the building is. If he were really interested in buying the building, he would have come forward with at least $20 million,” Starosolsky said.
This all came the day after the Imam behind the planned Islamic center said he was sorry he picked the spot but feels compelled to go ahead with the project.
“If I had known this would have happened, we certainly wouldn’t have done this,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said. “If we move it will strengthen the argument of the radical to recruit, their ability to recruit, and their continued aggression of violence against our country.”
Even some mosque supporters think the imam may be overstating that case.
“Radicals use any and everything. It’s not this one thing. They already use a lot of other stuff; they didn’t need this,” said Hesham El-Meligy of the Arab-American Federation.
Just after the Trump news broke, Jones, the leader of a small Florida church, said he was canceling plans to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11, only to leave the door open to a change of heart a few hours later.
At first, Pastor Jones said that he decided to cancel his protest because Rauf had agreed to move the mosque’s controversial location.
“We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday and on Saturday I will be flying up there to meet with them,” Jones said.
“He has agreed to move the location. That, of course, cannot happen overnight but he has agreed to do that. We felt that that would be a sign that God would want us the American people don’t want the mosque there and Muslims do not want us to burn the Koran.”
However, Rauf responded by saying there was no such agreement.
“I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musry. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony,” Rauf said.
Manhattan real estate developer Sharif El-Gamal, who leads a real estate partnership that controls the property on which the center would be built, and also heads a nonprofit group raising money for the center, denied that any talks on a move had taken place.
“It is untrue,” he said, adding, “The project will proceed as planned.”
Standing outside his 50-member Pentecostal church, the Dove Outreach Center, alongside Imam Muhammad Musri, the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, Jones said he relented when Musri assured him that the New York mosque will be moved.
Hours later, Jones said Musri “clearly, clearly lied to us.”
“Given what we are now hearing, we are forced to rethink our decision,” Jones said. “So as of right now, we are not canceling the event, but we are suspending it.”
Jones did not say whether the Koran burning could still be held Saturday, but he said he expected Musri to keep his word and expected “the imam in New York to back up one of his own men.”
In many ways it’s as if people on various sides of this issue are no longer listening to what the other side is saying but rather focusing on the tone of the discourse, seeing in the arguments perceived radicalism or racism.
“The tone of the debate is hatred, racism and bigotry in the ugliest form,” demonstrator Sara Flounder said.
But Rosemary Cain, who lost her son in the towers, hears her own ominous tone in the words Rauf delivered Wednesday night.
“If we move from that location, the story will be that the radicals have taken over the discourse,” Rauf said.
“He shouldn’t sound like he’s warning us against it. That puts a shiver down my spine. We’ve suffered enough. I don’t see why the whole basis for the Muslim faith in this country is depending on one mosque at ground zero,” Cain said.
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