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The single word etched on this 9/11 memorial that is sparking controversy
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A 9/11 memorial in the town of Owego, New York. - photo by Billy Hallowell
Controversy is brewing in the town of Owego, New York, over some of the words etched on a new monument honoring lives lost during the 9/11 terror attacks.

The monument made, in part, from pieces of the subway rail that ran underneath the Twin Towers will be permanently located in Hickories Park.

But the display, which will be dedicated over the weekend, has reportedly drawn the ire of the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier, a local Muslim group.

At the center of the controversy is a reference on the monument to "19 Islamic terrorists" who were responsible for the attacks, according to WICZ-TV.

"On September 11, 2001, nineteen Islamic terrorists unsuspectedly boarded four airliners departing east coast airports to hijack the planes and carry out a series of coordinated attacks against the United States," the inscription reads. "This is a tribute to all the lives lost that day and to the heroic sacrifice of all who rushed to help. As Americans, we honor their memory by living our lives in freedom."

The text concludes, "We will never forget."

The Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier reportedly wrote a letter to Owego officials saying the words "Islamic terrorists" are improper and asked that the monument's language be changed to "terrorists" or "al-Qaida terrorists" instead.

But city manager Donald Castellucci told conservative commentator Todd Starnes that he disagrees with the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier's arguments.

"They want us to change the word from 'Islamic terrorist' to either 'terrorist' or 'al-Qaida terrorist,'" Castellucci told Starnes. "I sent them back an email saying I disagreed with their premise 100 percent."

It's a sentiment that reflects what Castellucci previously told WICZ-TV, saying that he has no plans to "whitewash things."

"I dont live in a politically correct world," he told the outlet. "I live in a historical fact world whether its American, homegrown, Christianity, Islamic, you call it what it is. And we dont whitewash things, especially here."

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor at the time of the 2001 attacks, said during a Fox News interview Tuesday that he agrees with Castellucci's assessment, likening a potential removal of the word "Islamic" to taking "mafia" out of textbooks due to its association with Italians.

"My reaction to the Italian mafia was real simple Im Italian-American, Im not embarrassed about them. I dont belong to them. I want nothing to do with them and they represent the bad part of my ethnic background," he said during a "Fox & Friends" appearance. "Every ethnic background has a bad part."

While Giuliani said that Islam also has this dynamic, he said the "good part of the Islamic religion" shouldn't feel hurt by the term "Islamic terrorism," but should feel anger, seeking to see extremism eradicated; he added that he feels similarly about the mafia and wants to see it "wiped out."

The Owego monument is set to be dedicated Sept. 11, the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks that shocked the nation and the world.
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