A plan to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site cleared a substantial hurdle last week. But residents in two other neighborhoods are battling separate proposals to build Muslim community centers, by raising questions about the organization behind the plans. Local chapters of the Muslim American Society—which runs three centers in the New York City area—have plans to build mosques in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and Midland Beach, Staten Island. The group’s leaders say they are a nonprofit hoping to build centers where Muslims can worship and hold youth programs. But residents in both locations express fears of the group and its connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, a global network that promotes political Islam. Such links have been alleged by some researchers—such as Harvard fellow Lorenzo Vidino and Steven Merley, a senior analyst at the nonprofit NEFA Foundation, a terrorism research group—and groups like the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL points to literature and rhetoric at MAS conferences that echo the Brotherhood’s ideology, as well as links to articles by Brotherhood members on MAS websites. “I don’t think that there are would-be jihadists in this organization ready to attack the U.S.,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “But I think the organization has a very troubling history and record of associating with individuals who are extremist and anti-Semitic.” …To residents, nuances don’t matter. “We’re concerned about radical organizations,” said Victor Benari, 57 years old, a member of Bay People Inc., a group of Sheepshead Bay residents formed to oppose the mosque. “Where’s the money coming from? Of course we’re scared, especially with a situation like with what’s going on today in the U.S.” Residents also say they worry about other issues, such as parking for worshipers. Muslims, meanwhile, say the opposition to the mosques smacks of discrimination. In the Sheepshead Bay location, Allowey Ahmed, 60, who owns the Voorhies Avenue property, is in the process of transferring it to the MAS. The $800,000 project will be paid for primarily through local donations, said Mr. Ahmed.
The Journal report goes on to discuss the Staten Island MAS project:
A newer battle is shaping up in Staten Island as residents recently learned that a local convent is in the process of being sold to the MAS. The sale sparked such controversy that the pastor who brokered it abruptly left the parish last week. “I felt I had become a lightning rod and really was going to have a hard time proceeding there,” said Father Keith Fennessy. “I don’t think it’s totally rational,” he said, of the uproar. “I didn’t hear much of an argument other than that the buyers were Muslim.” The Midland Beach Civic Association is hosting a meeting with MAS leaders next week. “There are a ton of firemen and a ton of cops that live in the neighborhood that were affected by 9/11,” said Eugene Reems, 42. “So people are scarred from that.” Mohamed Sadeia, chairman of the MAS board of trustees for the Brooklyn/Staten Island chapter, said the group has no ties to any foreign groups, raises its money locally and preaches a moderate Islam. “People have fears and emotions about the Muslim community and we do understand due to the fact of what’s happened in the past but in the meantime I think this is an opportunity for us as a community to try to look at each other outside of the lens of Sept. 11,” said Mr. Sadeia. Mohammad Khalid, president of the Pakistani Civic Association of Staten Island, a nonprofit, said in today’s climate, concerns are understandable. Dr. Khalid said he has agreed to attend next week’s meeting. “My only question would be…is your source of money local or is it coming from somewhere else? If they satisfy me with that then I’d be happy to support them,” he said.
The MAS was identified in a Hudson Institute report as a part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and closely tied to the Egyptian organization. Previous posts have discussed the controversy involving the Roxbury Mosque in Boston, also tied to the MAS.