Russell Simmons is backing plans to open a mosque close to the site of the 9/11 terrorist atrocities in New York - insisting the building will help bond religious communities in the Big Apple.
Many residents in the city have been outraged by plans to erect a Muslim centre and mosque in Manhattan close to Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center where thousands of civilians perished in 2001.
Furious citizens are urging city officials to move the mosque to another area, away from the site of the tragedy.
But hip-hop mogul Simmons, who is the chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, is adamant officials should be allowed to go ahead with the project, because it will help promote religious tolerance.
He tells U.S. newsman Larry King, "This mosque is a replacement for one that's been there since before there was a World Trade Center... They've been working on this project for four years. And recently, it's been politicised...
"I think it's critical that we recognise that we built this country on religious tolerance and on religious freedom. And so if we want to penalise the two billion Muslims because of the actions of a few, then we have to examine the way we look at each other and all religions. So I think it would be a terrible idea to move the mosque...
"After 9/11, with all the compassion that was given to us, we (Americans) threw a lot of it away and I think now is an opportunity for us to turn it around and promote a relationship with the Islamic world that makes good sense, not one that's based in (sic) fear and ignorance."