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Paterson: Mosque Developers 'Hybrid, Almost Westernized' Muslims

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- For weeks we've heard Gov. David Paterson say he's got a plan to move the so-called ground zero mosque to another site.

On Thursday he's admitted that his idea is going nowhere.

Over the past few weeks Paterson has embarked on an intense campaign to get developers of the ground zero mosque to find another location. He even offered a state land swap, but on Thursday he conceded his efforts haven't gotten very far.

"They have publicly taken the position that they're not interested in considering an alternative site," Paterson told CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

To hear the governor tell it, the developers don't want to change because they want to separate themselves from the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center.

"The alternative site now starts to suggest that they have to take some responsibility for what people who look like them or have the same religion as them did," Paterson said.

The governor did, however, try to talk up the developers of the site, saying they were not the same "kind" of Muslims as the attackers.

"This group who has put this mosque together, they are known as the Suffi Muslims. This is not like the Shiites," Paterson said. "They're almost like a hybrid, almost westernized. They are not really what I would classify in the sort of mainland Muslim practice."

"The governor is trying to do anything he can to soften this whole environment up," political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.

But Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion at Hofstra, was stunned by the governor's remarks.

"I think Gov. Paterson is firmly in the percentage of the American population that admits it knows nothing about Islam. His simple statements about Suffis being good Muslims as opposed to whom, people who aren't Suffis?" Rashin said.

Meanwhile, CBS 2 has learned that Archbishop Timothy Dolan and an interfaith group of rabbis and ministers met Thursday to discuss ways to diffuse this very contentious situation.

The group of religious leaders expects to issue a statement in the next few days. One member told CBS 2 he hopes they will find a way to bring the two sides together.

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