NEW YORK (AP) - The imam who co-led the effort to build an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center has been given a reduced role in the project that made him one of the nation's most polarizing figures, the organization behind the plan announced Friday.
The nonprofit group Park51 said Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is set to start a national speaking tour Saturday and spends much of his time out of the country, was focused on other initiatives and didn't have enough time to spend on the center.
The group announced it had named a new senior adviser to help lead religious programing: Shaykh Abdallah Adhami, a 44-year-old scholar with an architecture degree known for his lectures on gender relations. It said Adhami would be among a number of imams with a role in the project.
Rauf helped come up with the idea for the center and his political connections won over influential supporters like the city's mayor.
He later promoted the center amid fierce controversy over its location, but he was never the driving force behind the plan. That role fell to the Manhattan real estate investor who controls the site, Sharif El-Gamal, who has spent recent months lining up financing and organizing the operation while Rauf served as the project's public face.
Rauf announced late this fall that he would be starting a global movement to oppose extremism and promote better relations between people of different faiths.
He will remain on the Islamic center's board and involved in the project, but Park51 said in a statement that it needed someone who could be more involved in the day-to-day business of building a local congregation.