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US Muslim groups unite, see mosque near ground zero as test of rights

Muslim leaders, meeting at the New York site of the proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, speak of their 'unified stance' against 'religious intolerance and bigotry.'

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Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Muslim Alliance in North America speaks at a news conference in front of the proposed Islamic center and mosque site near ground zero, Monday, in New York.

Louis Lanzano/AP

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American Muslim leaders are starting to coalesce around the concept of building an Islamic Center and mosque close to ground zero.

Their reason for coming together: The issue has now become a test of their constitutional right to build houses of worship anywhere in the nation.

On Monday, at a press conference outside of Park51, the proposed site of the mosque and community center, national and local Islamic religious leaders said they stood in support “of the building of the mosque in this place.” They said they have had discussions with the property developer about expediting the construction of the controversial facility.

WATCH VIDEO: Build a mosque near ground zero

“From the discussion we had with the developer, they are committing to expedite the process, of making sure this project is coherent, has an advisory board from the Muslim community, from the interfaith community, so this project will reflect America in terms of its spirit and its look at the future,” says Zaheer Uddin, executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council in New York.

The group also made clear it views the mosque issue as an important test of American society.

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