Williams thinks the best way to counteract this radicalization is with leadership from moderate Muslims such as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. He muses over the idea that the imam is the type of moderate Muslim whose programs the U.S. would be funding overseas. Indeed, the U.S. is funding a trip by the Imam in the Middle East, to reach out to Muslim communities and discourage extremist interpretations of Islam.
"If this was being developed anywhere else outside the United States in a Muslim majority country, our country would most likely be funding it. Because that's the type of Muslims we want to promote to counter extremist groups," Williams said. Rauf is one of the signatories of an open letter from Muslim leaders to Christian leaders dated October 2007, calling for interfaith understanding.
Still, two recent surveys, one conducted by CNN and another by Gallup, show that a majority of New Yorkers are opposed to building a mosque near Ground Zero, and that 37% of Americans disapproved of President Obama's statements supporting the developers' right to build a mosque at the proposed location.
But El-Gamal remains optimistic over the project, despite heated protests in New York over the weekend where opponents reportedly outnumbered supporters.
"We believe that as more New Yorkers and Americans get to know who we are, what we stand for -- freedom of religion, tolerance of difference, celebration of diversity, a commitment to the environment and a passion for service -- then those numbers will change," said El-Gamal.