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Ground zero mosque debate echoes Europe's fears of Muslims

The US debate over the so-called ground zero mosque in New York tracks similar fights that have taken place in European capitals in recent years over national identity and the impact of growing Muslim populations.

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As they weather a steamy August, Europeans are dimly aware of a convulsing US debate over the so-called ground zero mosque in New York, an Islamic center scheduled to be built two blocks from where Al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001.

Here, America is seen as a harbor of religious freedom whose embassies promote interfaith dialogue and protection of minority faiths. President Obama’s Cairo speech to harmonize Islam and American values was perceived as typical, as is the American inclination to push Europeans not to ban small churches and “cults.”

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