NEW YORK (AP) — The imam spearheading a proposed Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York says the fierce opposition is closely linked to the U.S. elections in November.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf says the political races have had a “major impact” in the protests against the project near the former site of the World Trade Center towers. He did not cite any particular campaign, but many conservative candidates have aligned themselves with the opposition.

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The imam also says the struggles facing American Muslims is similar to past religious-based prejudices against other groups, including Jews and Roman Catholics.

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He made the comments in an interview published Monday in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National.

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