The Crescent Report

June 9, 2010

MAS embraces Staten Island community and rebuffs attempts by Islamophobic propaganda to stop the building of a Mosque

Introduction:

Once again, it appears that Islamophobe Steve Emerson (referred to by the Washington Post as a controversial terrorist expert) and those of his ilk are attempting to stop American Muslims from exercising our First Amendment right to build a house of worship. As usual, they attempt to create fear and hysteria by means of a well orchestrated- smear campaign that incites fear by linking, lawful Muslim organizations with international terrorism. Unfortunately, these smear tactics don’t work, and sooner or later, individuals are able to look beyond the bigotry, lies, and terror baiting.

Fortunately, the better angels of the American spirit and the United States constitution continue to thwart Emerson and his Investigative Project along with his “winged nut” from Jihad Watch, Robert Spencer, who attempts to stop American Muslims from exercises their constitutional rights.  But this wholesale demonization and misrepresentation of Islam, American Muslim organizations and their leadership simply is not working. Despite their bigoted attacks, they are rebuffed and ultimately the mosque gets built.

Emerson and company are well organized, financed and they work hard to create religious and ethnic division between people in America.  As one case in point, Emerson has flooded the internet with my prior arrest record, even down to my arrest mug shot. In addition, he continues to circulate a ten year old video clip (taken out of context) that seems to give the impression that I, and other persons who attended at a rally in Washington D.C., support Hamas and Hezbollah and thus, we are terrorists.

Once again, for the record, I have never attempted to hide my past history of substance abuse and incarceration. I am grateful to my Creator that Islam gave me a chance to abandon my negative conduct and embrace a positive and constructive life style. I am truly grateful for the transformational power of faith.

Now as to that silly, taken-out-of-context- video clip of the rally in question: the demonstration was a peaceful rally that called for a US foreign policy vis-a-vis the people of Palestine that was fair and balanced and that rejected violence. The chant for the support of Hezbollah and Hamas was a facetious response to Emerson’s mis-characterization of the rally organizers as “terrorists” or terrorist sympathizers. Why won’t Emerson show the rest of the tape?

For the record, neither I, nor my organization, have ever supported terrorism, or groups associated with terrorism. Anyway, no lie lasts forever. Truth crushed to the earth still rises. Check out the piece below.

Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day:

“You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.”

MAS embraces Staten Island community and rebuffs attempts by Islamophobic propaganda to stop the building of a Mosque

Muslim group buying convent in Midland Beach to take part in civic meeting tomorrow

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Board members of the Muslim American Society recognize community concerns about their plans to buy a former convent in Midland Beach, but say they are good neighbors who are striving to meet the needs of the area’s growing Muslim population.

Their comments came at a gathering with leaders of the Midland Beach Civic Association and Advance reporters and editors at the newspaper’s Grasmere office, days before tomorrow’s full civic association meeting with MAS members.

“The main issue is the issue of the fear,” conceded MAS board member and South Beach resident Ayman Hammous, a married father of five and a physical therapist who works with disabled Staten Island children. He and three fellow MAS members said the organization denounces every aspect of terrorism, and Hammous decried allegations that have appeared on blogs and Web sites characterizing the group as a terror front, saying such stereotyping is the work of “Islamophobes.”

Several members of the Midland Beach community and borough activist groups have accused Mahdi Bray, the director of MAS’ advocacy arm, of having a criminal past and supporting terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, pointing to video clips in which Bray voices his support of the Palestinians.

In one video clip from 2000 posted on the website of the conservative Investigative Project on Terrorism, Bray appears to be pumping his fist in the air when a speaker asks who in the crowd supports the two groups.

“I categorically deny that I am a supporter of Hezbollah or Hamas or that I am a terrorist supporter,” Bray told the Advance last night. “The citations by the Investigative Project are not based in fact,” he said, questioning the group’s credibility.

In an interview with the Advance last month, Bray said, “We are not insensitive to the fact that there is a fear factor out there… Unfortunately, there are people who behave badly, who behave criminally, and yes, even behave in the areas of terrorism. But they are not associated with us.”

Bray in 2005 decried the allegations against MAS and called the Investigative Project “a group that has made a cottage industry out of attacking American Muslim organizations and their leadership” in a column he wrote for the Dallas Morning News.

“Our views on suicide bombing are consistent, clear and unambiguous: We condemn it,” he wrote. “MAS is an independent American Muslim organization with a staunchly clear and firm American identity operating with full respect and compliance of our laws and Constitution. We subscribe to the values and ideals of our faith, our country and the law of this great nation.”

The nonprofit MAS is set to purchase and renovate the former St. Margaret Mary R.C. Church convent on Greeley Avenue, and convert it to a mosque and community center offering after-school programs for children such as tutoring, computer labs, and Boy and Girl Scout troops.

Hammous and three other board members said they were surprised at the intense community opposition, and emphasized the good-neighbor connections that MAS enjoys in the metropolitan area, where it operates a community center and mosque in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and Astoria, Queens; a mosque in Morris Park in the Bronx, and an elementary school in Yonkers.

The Bensonhurst center, at 1933 Bath Ave., opened in 2000, and is located next door to the NYPD’s 62nd precinct station, noted Mohamed Sadeia, president of the board of the MAS Brooklyn and Staten Island chapter, and a resident of Graniteville.

As far as allegations aired by groups like the Investigative Project, Sadeia said, “Anyone can put anything on the Internet.”

“The only thing we can do is educate people about us,” added board member Ahlam Hassan, 25, who was born in Brooklyn, lives in Bensonhurst, and is studying for a degree in speech pathology. “We want everyone to feel comfortable.”

LARGE TURNOUT EXPECTED

Midland Beach Civic Association president Yasmin Ammirato said she expects a large turnout at the monthly meeting tomorrow at 8 p.m. at the Olympia Activity Center. MAS representatives will attend to answer questions from local residents. Uniformed police officers will be present, and anyone who is disorderly or unruly will be “escorted out,” she added.

Ms. Ammirato and two fellow civic association leaders said they respected the intentions of MAS, but added that nerves are raw in the community — in equal parts over MAS’ Muslim identity and allegations of terrorist connections; the church’s handling of the sale, and concerns about traffic that the center might draw.

“We have a large population affected by Sept. 11, and you will have to have a thick skin,” warned the civic’s secretary-treasurer, Rosemary Vasquenz, citing allegations that have circulated widely on the Internet suggesting MAS links to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

“We, as Muslims, were touched by 9/11 as much as anyone else,” responded MAS board member Abdel Hafid Djamil, who lives in Bay Ridge with his wife and five children, holds a doctorate in education, and teaches mathematics in a city public school.

“We do not recognize [the perpetrators] as Muslims. Islam does not condone the killing of innocents. We grieved like everyone else, but also had to take the backlashing and stereotyping,” he said.

MAS is “an independent American organization,” with “no links to the Muslim Brotherhood,” said board member Hammous, adding that “the vast majority of MAS members were born and raised in the U.S.”

The organization has had federal status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for more than 15 years, since 1993, he noted — a tax-relief designation the government does not bestow lightly.

Everyone around the table recognized the Island’s growing Muslim population, and the civic leaders cited the influx of Turkish and Albanian residents on the East Shore.

Mosques are in short supply on the Island, Sadeia said.

On the major Muslim religious holiday Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan, the mosques are so crowded that three separate prayer services are offered to accommodate worshipers, he reported. At PS 39 in South Beach, he said that more than 150 students were absent on a recent Muslim holiday — a clear indication that Muslims are a prominent part of the community.

Prayer services will be held only on Fridays at the Midland Beach location, according to the board members. Outdoor loudspeakers will not be used to announce the traditional Arabic call to prayer: “Definitely not, out of respect for the community,” said Hammous.

The civic association raised concerns about additional traffic that the mosque and community center is expected to generate in a neighborhood that has long been hard-pressed on this score.

“Greeley Avenue is the gateway from the South Shore to the bridge,” said Ms. Ammirato. “It gets to the point where you cannot cross the street in our little community.”

Sadeia pointed out that the Midland Beach center — with a 150-person capacity — will not be as large as the one in Bensonhurst, where about 400 students participate in after-school programs. He also noted that nearby parking lots on Capodanno Boulevard can accommodate Friday worshipers.

“We have family values the same as you do,” said Djamil, the teacher from Bay Ridge. “In our outreach, we extend our hands to everyone,” he said. “When we don’t know one another, that’s when there’s a problem.

“We’re here to be part of the society,” he added, citing MAS contributions to relief work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquake in Haiti, and dispatching students as volunteers in New York nursing homes, senior centers and soup kitchens.

“We want to build bridges of understanding with the larger society — we don’t want our second generation to be isolated,” said Hammous from South Beach. “We want all our children to grow up together as brothers and sisters — they need to get to understand one another.”

“And God will still be praised in this place,” Djamil added, referring to the now-empty convent.

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