(MintPress) — Five years ago, New York developer Allowey Ahmed purchased a vacant lot on the 2800 block of Voorhies Avenue in Brooklyn. His goal was to build a mosque and community center to accommodate the recent Muslim immigrants in the Sheepshead Bay area. Five years later, construction on the mosque and community center remains unfinished. […]
(MintPress) — Five years ago, New York developer Allowey Ahmed purchased a vacant lot on the 2800 block of Voorhies Avenue in Brooklyn. His goal was to build a mosque and community center to accommodate the recent Muslim immigrants in the Sheepshead Bay area. Five years later, construction on the mosque and community center remains unfinished.
Groups, such as Bay People Inc., have opposed the mosque and Muslim community center from the beginning, stating concerns about parking, traffic and noise, along with concerns that the mosque doesn’t “fit in” with the demographics of the neighborhood.
“The neighborhood residents are mostly of Italian/Russian/Jewish/Irish decent and will not benefit from having a mosque and a Muslim community center,” says the Bay People website.
While the mosque is the first to go up in this particular neighborhood, this isn’t the first time the location of a mosque has sparked controversy. Last September, an Islamic cultural center, which included a mosque amongst many of its amenities, opened two blocks from World Trade Center site.
Opponents of the “ground-zero mosque” said they felt the placement of an Islamic center so close to where many lost their lives on Sept. 11 was insensitive to families who lost loved ones that day.
New York state Sen. David Storobin, a Republican representing Sheepshead Bay and other Brooklyn neighborhoods, has also expressed concerns about the mosque. Paul Sipos, a Community Board 1 member, told the New York Post in 2010 that the opening of the mosque is fine as long as it is located somewhere else.
“If the Japanese decided to open a cultural center across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive. If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have absolutely nothing against Islam, I just think: Why there?”
But it wasn’t Muslims who drove the planes into the World Trade Center, it was a group of terrorists who happened to come from dominantly Islamic nations.
In a letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Storobin wrote, “The residents [of Sheepshead Bay] are also concerned with who is backing this construction, saying that there is evidence that MAS (Muslim American Society), the organization that is in charge of overlooking the project, has links to radical organizations, and been under numerous investigations by federal authorities due to their alleged support for Hamas and Hezbollah.”
The Bay People have also expressed concerns regarding the intent of the mosque being located in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood. On its website, the group wrote, “[The] Muslim American Society came out of Muslim Brotherhood and is still associated with the Brotherhood, sharing ideology, goals, leaders and members. We are sure you are aware of the Brotherhood’s fundamentalist views, as well as its anti-American, anti-Semitic and World dominance ideas.”
This isn’t the first time MAS has been accused of having connections to “terrorist” groups. Rep. Michael McMahon, a New York Democrat, inquired about MAS’ involvement with a mosque in Staten Island, but the FBI told him there was nothing to worry about.
“They gave me no indication whatsoever that the Muslim American Society is affiliated with any organization that threatens our national security,” wrote McMahon
Still, some anti-mosque protesters are concerned. In 2010, a man told a Brooklyn newspaper, “If they build a mosque there, I’m going to bomb the mosque.” The individual who said that would not give his name but reportedly “identified himself as a former Israeli soldier.”
In an interview with Mondoweiss, the developer Ahmed said, “We’re really shocked that some politicians still want to play politics with religious freedom. Religious freedom should never be a political issue.” Ahmed also pointed out neighbors in the area have not had any problems with the many synagogues and churches that are located in the area near where the mosque is being built.
Fortunately for supporters of the mosque, Bloomberg doesn’t have any jurisdiction over construction projects in Brooklyn, making Storobin’s letter more symbolic to supporters than a call for action.
Supporters of the mosque and community center, which plans to offer English as a second language as well as computer classes, say Storobin is after the conservative, Orthodox Jewish vote this fall when he is up for re-election. Storobin, a Russian Jew, immigrated to the U.S. when he was 12-years-old and was first elected to the New York state senate during a special election in March.
“[Storobin] thinks being further to the right is more helpful to him in getting elected than being for diversity is,” said political analyst Hank Sheinkopf to the Brooklyn Daily News. “Will it matter ultimately? No.”
Still, Storobin has been applauded by mosque opponents for reiterating concerns that Bay People has raised. He said that with 200-300 people praying at a time, five times a day, the mosque could see 1,500 visitors per day, and there is no provided parking.
Construction of the mosque continues despite all of the blockades by opponents and should be finished by the end of 2012.