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Palin: Muslim facility near Ground Zero an 'unnecessary provocation'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Mosque planned for space near Ground Zero
  • Palin appeals to "peace-seeking Muslims" to stop center near Ground Zero
  • She says the project "stabs hearts" at a time when pain is "too raw" and "too real"
  • Backers of the project say it would help improve interfaith relations
  • The project includes the construction of a $100 million, 13-story community center

(CNN) -- Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has called plans to build a community center and mosque near the site of the 9/11 terror attack in New York City an "unnecessary provocation."

"Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts," Palin wrote in a Twitter post Sunday. "Pls reject it in interest of healing."

The former Republican vice presidential nominee also posted a plea asking "peaceful New Yorkers" to "pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real."

Plans to build a $100 million, 13-story center have sparked an emotional debate.

The developer, Sharif El-Gamal, describes the project as an "Islamic community center" that will include a 500-seat performing arts center, a lecture hall, an exhibition space, a swimming pool, a gym, a culinary school, a restaurant and a prayer space for Muslims.

Video: Mosque ad stirs emotions

He said the project "is not a mosque." Plans for the project have called for a prayer space where an imam would lead services. A "mosque" is generally considered a space where Muslims worship.

New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to vote in August on whether an 1850s structure on the site of the proposed center should be granted landmark status. Even if the commission approves landmark status, though, that may not necessarily halt construction of the center.

Voices opposing the center dominated a hearing on the subject last week.

"It would be a terrible mistake to destroy a 154-year-old building in order to build a monument to terrorism," one woman said.

The heckling and intense nature of the hearing got to be too much for some participants.

"I'm ashamed to be an American today," said Rakif Gathwari, a Muslim-American who reminded the crowd that people from many countries and religions died in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

"I want to prove to this hall that I am a citizen," Gathwari said, holding up his passport.

Some Muslim community leaders say the project could provide an opportunity for improving interfaith relations.

CNN's Deb Feyerick, Julian Cummings, Ed Payne and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report