In this Aug. 24, 2010 file photo, Sharif el-Gamal, developer of the planned Cordoba House and mosque in lower Manhattan, comments on a speech by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a dinner in observance of Iftar at Gracie Mansion in New York.
The developer behind a controversial proposal to build an Islamic center near ground zero says he's the one ultimately calling the shots on the project and there are no discussions about moving it.
Sharif El-Gamal, who is of Egyptian and Polish descent but was born in Brooklyn, spoke Wednesday on the "Today" show. “This has been very unexpected. It’s been an eye-opener to see how my country, the United States, views my religion, Islam,” Sharif El-Gamal, chairman of Manhattan-based real estate company Soho Properties, told Matt Lauer.
He added there are a lot of misperceptions about his Islamic faith. “We are peace-loving Americans. Fear makes people irrational, and our identity has been hijacked by the extremists.”
The proposed community center and mosque called Park51 would be two blocks from ground zero. The location has upset some relatives of Sept. 11 victims and led to angry demands that it be moved.