..."We must take a stand and we must say no," shouted rally organizer Pamela Geller as the crowd roared approval. Moments later, another keynote speaker, Robert Spencer, sparked more cheers when he asked, "Are you tired of being lied to?"
Spencer, however, did not explain precisely what lies he was referring to...
At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.
"Go home," several shouted from the crowd.
"Get out," others shouted.
In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry -- were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called "The Way." Both said they had come to protest the mosque.
"I'm a Christian," Nassralla shouted to the crowd, his eyes bulging and beads of sweat rolling down his face.
But it was no use. The protesters had become so angry at what they thought were Muslims that New York City police officers had to rush in and pull Nassralla and El Masry to safety.
"I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here," a frustrated Nassralla said afterward.
The incident underscores how contentious -- and, perhaps, how irrational -- the debate over the mosque has become.
A mosque, for instance, has been located since 1983 on West Broadway, about 12 blocks from Ground Zero. After the 9/11 attacks, the mosque's imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, began shaping plans to build an Islamic cultural center closer to Ground Zero as part of an attempt to build cultural ties between Islam and America.
Called Cordoba House, the center would rise 13 stories and would include a 500-seat auditorium, a swimming pool and a mosque.
Late last month, after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a variety of political leaders announced their support for the project, the lower Manhattan community board voted 29-1, with 10 abstentions, to approve Cordoba House. (More)