In his first extensive interview since the controversy blew up over the Islamic community center and mosque proposed for Lower Manhattan, Hisham Elzanaty, a 51-year old Egyptian-born businessman, says he's the main investor in the project, having donated most of the $4.8 million to buy the old Burlington Coat Factory building at 45 Park Place. After previously suggesting he'd sell the property to the highest bidder, Elzanaty now says that's out of the question. When asked if he controls the fate of the building, Elzanaty answered: "Probably, yes. I will not walk away from this. I have given it to the community and I will not take it back."

Elzanaty's interview comes a day after Islamic leaders held a press conference to declare their unified support for the project, which the developer calls Park51 and the imam calls Cordoba House. But the show of unity for the cameras only came about after the developer, Sharif el-Gamal, met with muslim leaders for two hours on Sunday. Throughout this long summer of anti-mosque fever, some Muslim Americans weren't supporting the Park51 project, which they considered unnecessarily provocative because of its location two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

The Times reports that at Sunday's meeting, the developer "apologized for not consulting more with leaders ahead of time and said that he had not realized how strong the opposition would be." Elzanaty, the investor, also said during his interview, "I did not expect this at all. I did not expect this commotion, this hate, this anger I did not expect any of this. "I'm a regular guy. I'm Muslim. I'm an American." But to others, he's a guy who donated money to Holy Land, a charity that was later classified as a terrorist organization, though at the time Elzanaty says he thought that the group was helping needy Muslim orphans.

Holy Land's leaders were eventually proven to have funneled money to Hamas, a group whose name came up again during yesterday's press conference. According to the Times, when an audience member asked whether they would condemn Hamas, the muslim leaders declined to answer, saying "they wanted to focus on the planned center."