Following protests against the planned construction of a mosque close to the site of the former World Trade Center in New York, Washington-based left-wing group J Street  launched a petition Monday in support of the project.

A statement on the organization's website said: " Appalled by the opposition to plans by American Muslims to build a community center in lower Manhattan modeled after Jewish Community Centers (JCC's) and Y's all over the country, J Street is collecting petitions in support of religious freedom and against anti-Muslim bigotry."

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The statement continued: "In the battle against violent extremism, core democratic values like respect for minorities and freedom of religion can be potent weapons in ensuring security and advancing tolerance and understanding. Now is the time to stand in support of those core values."

J Street was founded in 2008 as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization seeking to unite and strengthen the left-wing American Jewish camp. It has grown to 43 staff members and an annual budget estimated at over $5 million. It has faced criticism in the broader American Jewish community for views seen by some as being overly critical of Israel, but it has asserted that its criticism of Israeli policies stems from its concern for Israel’s long-term welfare.



On Friday, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement calling for the mosque to be moved away from its planned location.

“The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process,” the statement read.

“Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.”

Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report.

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