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Imam unmoved by Saudi criticism of NYC mosque

Associated Press Modified: October 29, 2010 at 8:25 am •  Published: October 29, 2010

Indeed, those supporters include another of the world's other richest men, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Shaik Ubaid, co-chairman of a group that has supported the center, the Muslim Peace Coalition, said Alwaleed's comments will carry little weight with Muslims thinking about contributing to the project.

"If Prince Alwaleed cares about Muslims in America, then he should take his money out of News Corp." he said. "Muslims in America can take care of their own affairs."

The prince is a major stockholder in News Corp., the owner of Fox News, which has featured commentators critical of the project.

At one time, criticism of an Islamic institution by a Saudi prince might have carried greater weight with U.S. Muslim organizations than it does now, said Ihsan Bagby, an Islamic studies professor at the University of Kentucky.

In the 1970s and 1980s, wealthy Saudi benefactors interested in seeing the fledgling U.S. Muslim community get on its feet contributed heavily to Islamic organizations in America.

That spigot largely turned off in the early 1990s, Bagby said, as the Saudis turned their attention to aiding Muslims in Africa, the Balkans and former Soviet republics.

Some wealthy Saudi businessmen also became disillusioned, Bagby said, with the reluctance by some of the U.S. groups they had funded to support the establishment of American military bases in the Gulf region and the first war with Iraq, both of which were strongly supported by Saudi Arabia.

"I wouldn't say that closed the doors to the American community, but it led to a slow closing of the doors," Bagby said. "I think the American Muslim community was ready to stand on its own anyway, and tired of sending delegations overseas."