"Those people behind the mosque have to respect, have to appreciate and have to defer to the people of New York," Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said in an interview with the Dubai-based Arabian Business magazine. "The wound is still there. Just because the wound is healing you can't say, 'Let's just go back to where we were pre-9/11.'"
Alwaleed also said in the interview that Muslims in New York should consider a more "dignified" location, alluding to the presence of at least one strip club and several bars in the area.
"It can't be next to a bar or a strip club, or in a neighborhood that is not really refined and good. The impression I have is that this mosque is just being inserted and squeezed over there," he said.
Alwaleed said that it may take up to 30 years for the wounds of 9/11 to heal, and said that moving forward with the mosque would agitate people needlessly.
"Most governments are pragmatic, most people are logical. There are pockets of extremism in Israel, in the U.S. and in the Muslim world. But we have to fight them with reason, with logic and with compassion," Alwaleed said. "We can't just say 'go to hell.' We cannot do that."
The prince's comments were applauded by those who have been protesting the project. Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, one of the most vocal opponents of the mosque, said in a blog post today that Alwaleed "got it right."
"Pretty pathetic when our own liberal media and politicians need lessons in sensitivity from a Saudi prince. Sheesh," Geller wrote.
But Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam of the proposed Islamic center, said he has no intention of moving the project out of the shadow of Ground Zero.
"While we respect the points of view of other interested observers, we plan to build the community center in this location," Rauf said in a statement today.
He said that hundreds of Muslims have been praying in that space every day for more than a year. He said the project is part of an effort to "tackle tough issues in a practical way in order to build better relationships among Muslims, Jews, Christians and people of goodwill from all cultures and faiths."