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Who Is the Man Behind the Mosque?

September 27, 2011

During the peak of the controversy last summer over plans to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan, you probably saw or heard of Imam Abdul Feisal Rauf, then the spiritual leader and public face of the project.  But tonight we’ll introduce you to the man who bought the controversial building and who is running the project today: Sharif El-Gamal.

A busboy-turned-wealthy real estate developer, El-Gamal says he had a spiritual awakening after 9/11. As he rediscovered Islam, he vowed to help his community — the Muslims he prayed with in Lower Manhattan who had recently been evicted from their mosque — with whatever skills he had.

FRONTLINE producer Dan Reed followed El-Gamal over several months as he battled to garner support and funds for the project he has dubbed Park51. Hounded by reporters and lacking wide support among American Muslims, El-Gamal has struggled to keep his dream alive.

Today he admits he made “a lot of mistakes” throughout the process, but says he’s committed to moving the project forward, despite the continuing criticisms of some of his fiercest opponents, many of whom you’ll hear from tonight.

We hope you’ll watch and let us know what you think.

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