The Man Behind the Mosque Preview(0:30) FRONTLINE tells the story of Sharif El-Gamal, the charismatic property developer at the center of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy.

Proposed NYC Islamic Center to Open Temporary Space

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Last year the debate over the plan to build a mosque and Islamic community center in lower Manhattan reached fever pitch.  The ensuing protests and threats of violence became one of the biggest stories of 2010.

Now the project — known as Park51 — is moving forward, albeit quietly and on a small scale.

Tomorrow Park51′s organizers will open a temporary space on the ground floor of the site, its first big event.  The grand opening ceremony, timed to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, includes a photography exhibit of children from 169 countries who now live in New York. Park51′s chief of staff Katerina Lucas says she hopes the exhibit will show “we are about inclusion, not exclusion.”

But even though the controversy may have quieted down, some of the project’s most staunch opposition has not.  Pamela Geller, a blogger who has led the groundswell against the project told CNN she is appalled by the exhibit. “It is an obvious and cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion and divert attention away from the Islamic supremacist ties, shady financial dealings, and contradictory statements of the mosque organizers,” she said.

What is really behind the project — and why did it become such a lightning rod?  Next week (check local listings here) FRONTLINE will untangle the media hysteria, raw emotion and politics surrounding the most controversial building in America.  The Man Behind the Mosque goes inside the project with Sharif El-Gamal, the charismatic property developer at the center of the controversy and breaks down the press frenzy surrounding the plans; the attacks on its high-profile spiritual leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf; the enduring pain and anger of some of the 9/11 families who oppose the building; and the sources of the groundswell against the project.

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