The Crescent Report

March 15, 2010

Tough Ride for Brooklyn Mosque

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 12:56 pm

Tough Ride for Brooklyn Mosque

By  Dina Rabie, IOL

WASHINGTON, DC (IOL) Mar. 15, 2010 –  A plan by the local Muslim community in Brooklyn to build a mosque is facing a fierce campaign which raises bigotry-driven fears, which Muslims say is not uncommon in post 9/11 America.

“The community is working out of pure ignorance. There has been a lot of bigotry here,” Theresa Scavo, Chairperson of the Brooklyn Community Board 15, told IslamOnline.net, referring to the mosque opponents.

The proposal for building a mosque with a four-story community center and a minaret in Brooklyn’s Voorhies Ave was submitted to the Department of Buildings in July, but was rejected by city planners over zoning regulations.

The proposal was accepted when resubmitted without the minaret, and now the construction is proceeding.

But the project is still meeting strong opposition from some non-Muslim residents who formed a group called the Bay People and distributed leaflets urging people to “Say NO to mosque at 2812 Voorhies Avenue”.

They made an online petition, signed so far by nearly 300 residents, accusing the mosque’s main sponsor, the Muslim American Society, of seeking to establish “an Islamic State in America” and being associated with organizations and individuals critical of Israel policies.

“Most neighborhood residents do think that the fact that MAS is anti-Semitic is reason enough not to have it in our neighborhood,” the Bay People said in an email to IOL.

But Mahdi Bray, director of MAS’s Freedom Foundation, says there are a lot of people who are critical of Israeli policies, including former president Jimmy Carter.

“It does not make them anti-Semite and does not make MAS anti-Semite either,” he told IOL.

Bray said the mosque opponents first hid their rejection behind a smokescreen of issues like traffic and parking, before coming clear with their accusations.

“When it was clear that the mosque meets all zoning and environment requirements, they used the old fear tactic.

“But despite all the noise, the fact of the matter is that the mosque is going to be built. Thank God for the law, because the law is on the side of Muslims.”

Trend

Bray, the MSA leader, regrets that this is not just the case of the Brooklyn mosque.

“This has been the reaction in many places when Muslims want to build places of worship,” he contends.

“There is always some group who would join in and find a reason to attack the mosque.

“They might say it is going to disrupt traffic, or it is going to create parking problems, but it is really a disguise to hide their bigotry.”

The Muslim leader asserts that there have been many examples on that trend over the past years.

“The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) for example had spot resistance for over four to five years.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that more than half Americans hold negative views about Islam.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that American Muslims, estimated at nearly seven millions, are discriminated against more than any other religious group in the US.

Mohamed Razvi, the founder and Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization (COPO) which is dedicated to building relations among diverse communities, points the finger at the media for spreading misconceptions about their community.

“The recent event was that Nigerian man who went to Yemen for training and all this news talking about Al-Qaeda in Yemen,” he told IOL.

“It was really lack of understanding of the other community groups who are just feeding of the media.”

Razvi, a Brooklyn resident of Pakistani origin, believes Muslims should take a proactive approach to deal with the trend of fear about mosques in post 9/11 America.

“Can we have all them change their minds? No. But it is very important to take the proactive approach,” he maintains.

“If we did not speak up, this would have led to other things even more problematic.”

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