Tag Archives: Islam

The Convergence of Islamophobia and U.S. Policy (Updated below)

Prominent anti-Muslim activists such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer like to run around castigating the Obama administration for submitting to sharia law or coddling Islamic terrorists.  But in reality, the right-wing movement to shut down Muslim-American political activity in the U.S. shares an agenda with the U.S. government.

Case in point:  Chip Berlet, a scholar on right-wing movements in the U.S., adds to the Washington Post‘s disclosure last week that “law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive”:

“Kill them…including the children.”

That’s how to solve the threat of militant Muslims?

This quote is from what one official involved in homeland security said was the theme of a speech by Walid Shoebat at an anti-terrorism training in Las Vegas in October 2010.

Shoebat, according to the Post, “lectures to local police” and spoke at “the first annual South Dakota Fusion Center Conference in Sioux Falls this June.”

Despite the U.S. government’s insistence on “winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim world,” having government agencies hire Islamophobic activists like Shoebat serves an important agenda that right-wing activists also promote:  stoking fear and hatred of Muslims in the service of maintaining the U.S. war machine in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.  It’s the same agenda that leads the FBI to entrap young Muslim men in the U.S. and to then trumpet their arrest as another victory in the “war-on-terror.”

One part of how to shut the America public up about a never-ending war is to constantly demonize your “enemies” and to make people scared of them.  That’s why Shoebat is being hired by government agencies and that’s why the FBI is entrapping disaffected Muslim youth in the States.  And it’s also why the FBI is engaged in a witch hunt against anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists in the U.S.

The U.S. empire needs Islamophobia to function.

UPDATEThe Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) just put out a press release “urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Defense Department (DoD) not to use anti-Muslim extremists to train counterterrorism officials.”  This follows a similar CAIR statement that called for a “review [of] Justice Department policies on the reported use of anti-Muslim extremists to train counterterrorism officials nationwide.”

How the U.S. Government Promotes Islamophobia

I often focus on organizations and individual right-wing activists outside the U.S. government that have stoked anti-Muslim sentiment here.  But the U.S. government itself is just as culpable in promoting a McCarthyist climate of fear where every Muslim-American is considered a “terror threat” and Islam is turned into the new bogeyman of the day.

The latest installment in the Washington Post‘s investigative series by Dana Priest and William Arkin, “Top Secret America,” provides a look into how the U.S. government is mired in the deep swamp that is Islamophobia in America (emphasis mine):

Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies…

Ramon Montijo has taught classes on terrorism and Islam to law enforcement officers all over the country.

“Alabama, Colorado, Vermont,” said Montijo, a former Army Special Forces sergeant and Los Angeles Police Department investigator who is now a private security consultant. “California, Texas and Missouri,” he continued.

What he tells them is always the same, he said: Most Muslims in the United States want to impose sharia law here.

“They want to make this world Islamic. The Islamic flag will fly over the White House – not on my watch!” he said. “My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders.”

With so many local agencies around the country being asked to help catch terrorists, it often falls to sheriffs or state troopers to try to understand the world of terrorism. They aren’t FBI agents, who have years of on-the-job and classroom training…

Amazingly, the Center for Security Policy, a neoconservative think tank, is also being listened to by the U.S. homeland security apparatus:

A book expanding on what Shoebat and Montijo believe has just been published by the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based neoconservative think tank. “Shariah: The Threat to America” describes what its authors call a “stealth jihad” that must be thwarted before it’s too late.

The book’s co-authors include such notables as former CIA director R. James Woolsey and former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, along with the center’s director, a longtime activist. They write that most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized, that most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists and that Muslims who practice sharia law seek to impose it in this country.

Frank Gaffney Jr., director of the center, said his team has spoken widely, including to many law enforcement forums.

“Members of our team have been involved in training programs for several years now, many of which have been focused on local law enforcement intelligence, homeland security, state police, National Guard units and the like,” Gaffney said. “We’re seeing a considerable ramping-up of interest in getting this kind of training.”

The fact that Gaffney speaks with law enforcement on how to combat “terrorism” is disturbing.  Matt Duss of Think Progress explains that Gaffney is a person who thinks that “Obama is a Muslim, question[s] whether Obama is an American citizen, [and] believe[s] that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s new logo is a sign of the president’s ‘submission to sharia.’”  Gaffney is not an expert on Islam.  In fact, Gaffney did not consult a single Islamic scholar on his “report” on shariah law, and only started studying the religion three years ago.

What’s more, as I explained here, the Center for Security Policy’s general counsel is David Yerushalmi, an advocate for criminalizing Islam and who once wrote that “blacks [are]…the most murderous of peoples.”

Another recent instance of the U.S. government promoting Islamophobia was the arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud in Oregon, which in reality was, as Glenn Greenwald put it, the FBI successfully thwarting its own plot.

The next day, this happened:

U.S. investigators said a fire at an Islamic center in Oregon on Sunday was arson and warned they would tolerate no retribution for an attempt by a Somali-born teenager to detonate what he thought was a car bomb.

New York’s Muslims, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Israel

Protesters throw shoes at a portrait of Mayor Michael Bloomberg after the mayor's trip to Israel while Operation Cast Lead raged on. PHOTO: Zahra Hankir

Ever since Lawrence Swaim of the California-based Interfaith Freedom Foundation articulated his valuable insight to me that the question of Israel courses through Jewish-Muslim relations, I’ve been coming across stories that fit into that theme.  In general, strong support for Israel correlates with an aversion to understanding legitimate Palestinian, Arab and Muslim grievances about the United States and Israel, and given the dehumanization of Palestinians (the majority of them Muslims) that pervades Israeli and U.S. society, it’s no surprise that Israel is a big roadblock in Jewish-Muslim relations.  You have to place the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s opposition to Park 51 in lower Manhattan in that context.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy reporting on how Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City is perceived by the Muslim community here–which is at about 800,000 strong–in the wake of Bloomberg’s admirable defense of the mosque and community center near Ground Zero.  (The fruits of my labor are here at the Gotham Gazette.)  A lot of different issues came up in my discussions with Muslim community leaders in New York City, but Bloomberg’s staunch support for Israel came up in a number of interviews.  Bloomberg’s role in not standing up for Debbie Almontaser, the founding and former principal of the city’s first dual-language Arabic school who was felled by a right-wing smear campaign, also had something to do with Israel, as Kiera Feldman points out in this excellent article. Bloomberg’s relationship with the Muslim community is one prominent symbol of the role Israel plays in the challenge of forging strong Jewish-Muslim solidarity, all the more important in a time of rising Islamophobia that bears many of the same hallmarks that characterized anti-Semitism.

In early 2009, around the same time that the massacre of the al-Samouni family occurred in Gaza, Mayor Bloomberg flew in to Israel on his private jet along with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelley and Representative Gary Ackerman.  Bloomberg went to Sderot, the Israeli town that saw many rockets from Gaza rain down, and laid the blame for the Israeli assault on Hamas: “That they are putting people at risk is an outrage. If Hamas would focus on building a country instead of trying to destroy another one, then those people would not be getting injured or killed.”

This trip enraged the Arab and Muslim community in New York City.  Shortly after Bloomberg’s trip, Palestine solidarity activists organized a rally outside of City Hall, throwing shoes at a portrait of Bloomberg.

“His relationship with Israel, supporting Israel with no limits, hurts us,” Zein Rimawi, a member of the New York City-based Arab Muslim American Federation, recently told me. “Don’t forget: We are Arabs, we are Muslims, and the people in Gaza are Arabs and Muslims and we support them.”

Bloomberg made many New York Muslims happy with his defense of Park 51.  But Israel looms large, and it’s obvious that his disregard for the suffering of the people in Gaza dealt substantial damage to his relationship with the New York City Muslim community.  Take the relationship between Bloomberg and Muslims as a lesson that those interested in forming stronger Jewish-Muslim coalitions must deal with the question of Israel.  Fighting Islamophobia and the right-wing Zionist project of expelling Palestinians from their historic homeland depends on strong Jewish-Muslim solidarity.

New York City Withdraws Approval, Then Re-approves, Sheepshead Bay Mosque Proposal

After approving a proposed mosque and Islamic community center on October 13 in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn that has faced vitriolic opposition from the Brooklyn Tea Party and a group of residents called Bay People, the New York City Department of Buildings withdrew their approval last week. And then they re-approved it October 23, according to news reports.

When the department reneged on their approval for the three-story project at 2812 Voorhies Ave, Allowey Ahmed, the owner of the property, attributed it to pressure from anti-Muslim activists, according to a report in the Brooklyn Paper.  A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings told the paper that after the department withdrew their approval, backers of the mosque “came in to address our questions and the hold has been lifted.”

The battle, though, doesn’t seem to be over.  Bay People has reportedly raised $30,000 for “fund a legal strategy to block the mosque by arguing it violates zoning laws and will create noise and traffic problems on the quiet block,” according to a June 30 Daily News article.

The opposition to this mosque comes as a general anti-Muslim climate is spreading across the United States, exemplified by the hysteria over the Park51 Islamic community center in lower Manhattan.

I recently reported on the battle over the proposed mosque in Sheepshead Bay in the Indypendent:

Bay People, Inc., as well as other opponents, also have an agenda aligned with anti-Muslim groups and individuals that have been stoking opposition to mosques around the city and country.  On its website, Bay People states that, “the neighborhood residents are mostly of Italian/Russian/Jewish/Irish descent and will not benefit from having a mosque and a Muslim community center.”  In addition, the group is opposed to the Muslim American Society’s (MAS) affiliation with the project, claiming that MAS is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and has links to radical Islam and terrorism.  (Rep. Michael McMahon, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island, asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a probe into MAS, which concluded that there was “no indication whatsoever that the Muslim American Society is affiliated with any organization that threatens our national security,” according to the Staten Island Advance.)

MAS has partnered with the local Muslim community to back the center, which in addition to having a prayer space will also have English as a second language classes, computer classes and workforce development programs.  Those closely involved with the proposed project say the focus will be on providing youth in the community with a positive place to go, but that it will be open to anyone.

“What they’re trying to do is put up all these smoke-screens to propagate fear in that community to not allow the [Muslim] community to build, and it’s absolutely unjust…for them to basically try to monopolize Sheepshead Bay and make it a Muslim free-zone,” said Debbie Almontaser, a prominent Muslim interfaith activist.  Almontaser is the board chair for the Muslim Consultative Network, which has been working with the local Muslim community in Sheepshead Bay to combat the opposition.  “If you look at the history of this community, there are churches, there are synagogues, and now it’s time to have a mosque…”

John Press, the head of the Brooklyn Tea Party, which protested alongside Bay People at a September 26 rally against the proposed mosque, didn’t shy away from opposing the mosque based on anti-Muslim sentiment, calling Islam a “hostile political doctrine.”

“We recognize the importance of the ‘clash of civilizations,’ and the Muslim American Society is a proponent of sharia law.  We believe that sharia law is antithetical to Western freedoms,” said Press, who doesn’t live in Sheepshead Bay and said that “a few” Brooklyn Tea Party members do.

The claims about “sharia” law and Islam as a “political doctrine” echo similar claims from anti-Muslim activists actively working to oppose the construction of new mosques around the country from lower Manhattan to Tennessee to California.

“The opponents against the proposed mosque in Sheepshead Bay erroneously brushstroke the entire Muslim community as ‘the other’ based on misinformation and at times outright bigotry,” Aliya Latif, the civil rights director for the New York chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, wrote in an email to the Indypendent.

Anti-Muslim accusations have been leveled by opponents of the mosque at a series of heated protests in the community, including a June 27 anti-mosque rally where one Sheepshead Bay resident threatened to “bomb the mosque” if it’s built, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

There have also been counter-protests to combat the opposition and to support the proposed project, like the one at a Sept. 26 rally that saw the dueling sides on two sides of Voorhies Ave.

“The day we were there, [Sept. 26], we arrived and we thought we went back to the 50’s.  There were signs all over people’s houses [reading] ‘Muslims go home,’” said Elaine Brower, an activist who lives in Staten Island and a member of the New York City Coalition to Stop Islamophobia, which has been organizing in support of the proposed mosque.  “If people don’t stand up against it in unity and show support for Muslims and Arabs in this country, it’s only going to get worse.”

Brower was also involved in supporting a proposed mosque in the Midland Beach neighborhood of Staten Island.  After a reverend initially entered into an agreement with MAS to sell a former parish convent to them so a mosque could be built, the board of St. Margaret Mary R.C. Church, which the reverend is a part of, withdrew support for the sale after about two months of harsh condemnation from local residents.  Like the Sheepshead Bay mosque controversy, residents cited concerns about parking and traffic as well as MAS’ alleged affiliation with links to terrorism.

Still, despite the vitriolic opposition to the Sheepshead Bay center, Allowey Ahmed, the owner of the property at 2812 Voorhies Ave., is moving forward with his plans.  Ahmed, a Yemeni-American and long-time Brooklyn resident, estimated that over $1 million in funds will need to be raised for the community center, and that he hopes construction will begin in the next few months.

“What is right is going to prevail,” said Ahmed.  “We believe we are on the right track, because we believe we are sending a good and positive message.”

 

Koch Brothers Also Funding Islamophobia

The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer made waves with her piece on the Koch brothers, which described how Charles and David Koch, the owners of the multi-billion dollar Koch Industries, were “giving money to ‘educate,’ fund, and organize Tea Party protesters” in an effort to “turn their private agenda into a mass movement.”

Now, more has emerged about the Koch brothers’ agenda, and it’s not just limited to advocating for “drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation.”  An investigation by CounterPunch‘s Pam Martens has revealed that “a secretive libertarian nonprofit with ties to Charles Koch bankrolled what was widely perceived to be a fear mongering effort to throw the Presidential election to Senator John McCain in 2008.”

The “fear mongering effort” in question was the documentary “Obsession:  Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” which was distributed to millions of people in “swing states” around the country in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election through corporate newspapers.  The documentary has been condemned as anti-Muslim, and features interviews with notorious Islamophobes such as Steven Emerson, Daniel Pipes and Caroline Glick.

The CounterPunch investigation adds a whole new layer to the overlap between anti-Muslim activists and the Tea Party, which I wrote about yesterday.

Martens writes:

CounterPunch can now report what this race-baiting, fear-mongering campaign cost and where the money, at least nominally, came from.  The 28 million DVDs were produced at a cost of $15,676,181 by Artist Direct Media which does mass manufacturing of CDs and DVDs with volume discounts.  The big media buy for Sunday newspaper insertions ran up the tidy tab of $719,436 and was conducted by NSA Media, a unit of the global ad giant, Interpublic Group, parent of McCann-Erikson. That figure seems decidedly on the light side so there may be other funding sources involved that have not yet surfaced. (NSA Media is a powerful ad buyer, representing some of the biggest print buyers and consumer brands in the country, which might help explain why so few questions were asked by the largest newspapers about this unseemly project.) The full tab, and then some, was paid by the super secretive libertarian nonprofit, Donors Capital Fund.  In 2008, Clarion Fund became Donors Capital Fund’s largest grantee by a large margin, receiving $17,778,600.  That sum constituted 96 per cent of all funds received by Clarion in 2008 and 9 times its revenue in 2007.

Donor’s Capital Fund is a “supporting organization” to Donors Trust, a sister nonprofit.  Both promise the pursuit of taking over social welfare needs with private funds rather than government solutions; they want small government.  (With 43 million Americans now living below the poverty level, it’s fascinating to know that these folks earmarked $17 million not to hunger relief but to DVD packaging.  Let them eat plastic, perhaps.)

There are shades of Charles Koch all over Donors Capital and Donors Trust.  Two grantees receiving repeat and sizeable grants from Donors Capital are favorites of the Koch foundations: George Mason University Foundation and Institute for Humane Studies.  Another tie is Claire Kittle.  A project of Donor’s Trust is Talent Market.org, a headhunter for staffing nonprofits with the “right” people.  Ms. Kittle serves as Talent Market’s Executive Director and was the former Program Officer for Leadership and Talent Development at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.  Then there is Whitney Ball, President of both Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust.  Ms. Ball was one of the elite guests at the invitation-only secret Aspen bash thrown by Charles Koch in June of this year, as reported by ThinkProgress.org.  Also on the guest list for the Koch bash was Stephen Moore, a member of the Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal.  Mr. Moore is a Director at Donors Capital Fund.  Rounding out the ties that bind is Lauren Vander Heyden, who serves as Client Services Coordinator at Donors Trust.  Ms. Vander Heyden previously worked as grants coordinator and policy analyst at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

Richard Silverstein has more over at his blog.

Anti-Muslim Sentiment Not Limited to Europe

The Washington Post reports on how “anti-Muslim feelings” are “propel[ling] [the] right wing in Europe.”  When will we see similar stories coming out about the U.S.?  The Tea Party is a right-wing movement that has come into prominence, in part, by stoking fear of Muslims and the non-existent “creeping sharia” law that is about to be imposed on the United States.

A recently released report by the NAACP, Devin Burghart, Leonard Zeskind and the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights notes:

The term “Islamophobia” was defined in a 1997 Runnymede Trust Report as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.”[254] Among the characteristic elements of Islamophobia highlighted in the report: Islam is monolithic and cannot adapt to new realities; Islam does not share common values with other major faiths; Islam as a religion is inferior to the West; It is archaic, barbaric, and irrational; Islam is a religion of violence and supports terrorism; and Islam is a violent political ideology.

In fact, alongside racism, anti-Semitism, and nativism, the elements of Islamophobia have found their way into the Tea Party Movement. Tea Party leaders and members have employed anti-Muslim language.   With strong Tea Party ties, Pamela Geller stands out in this regard.

As noted earlier, Geller was a featured speaker at a Tea Party Patriots-sponsored convention in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in May.[255] Despite weeks of pressure from community groups who raised concerns about Geller’s history of Islamophobia, the convention organizers refused to reconsider their invitation to Geller.[256]

As the report notes, Islamophobia is a key element of the Tea Party movement.  There are a lot of examples demonstrating this.

The English Defense League, a far-right anti-Muslim group who has chanted “We hate Muslims” at rallies, is reportedly forging links with Tea Party groups in the United States. 

And last weekend, as Justin Elliott of Salon reports, “the leader of one of the three biggest Tea Party groups has called for Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to be defeated this election explicitly because he is Muslim.”

I’m waiting for that expose on Islamophobia in the Tea Party.

A Mosque Grows in Brooklyn

The following article originally appeared in the latest issue of the Indypendent:

PHOTO: Sakura Kelley Elaine Brower (left) a member of the New York City Coalition to Stop Islamophobia, has been organizing support from the proposed mosque and the Muslim and Arab communities. John Press (right), the head of the Brooklyn Tea Party, has been protesting the proposed mosque, calling Islam a 'hostile doctrine.'

When a mosque and Islamic community center in Sheepshead Bay were formally proposed in the summer of 2009, the estimated 200 Muslim families living in the south Brooklyn neighborhood greeted the news happily. For many years, they’ve had to travel to mosques in Bensonhurst, Canarsie and Bay Ridge.

But the proposed three-story project at 2812 Voorhies Ave., which was approved Oct. 13 by the Department of Buildings, is now facing a storm of opposition, some of it from outside the community.  The main opposition group, a group of local residents called Bay People Inc., has mobilized since the beginning of this year to oppose the mosque for a number of reasons, including concerns over increased traffic, parking problems, noise and property values.

But Bay People, Inc., as well as other opponents, also have an agenda aligned with anti-Muslim groups and individuals that have been stoking opposition to mosques around the city and country.  On its website, Bay People states that, “the neighborhood residents are mostly of Italian/Russian/Jewish/Irish descent and will not benefit from having a mosque and a Muslim community center.”  In addition, the group is opposed to the Muslim American Society’s (MAS) affiliation with the project, claiming that MAS is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and has links to radical Islam and terrorism.  (Rep. Michael McMahon, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island, asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a probe into MAS, which concluded that there was “no indication whatsoever that the Muslim American Society is affiliated with any organization that threatens our national security,” according to the Staten Island Advance.)

MAS has partnered with the local Muslim community to back the center, which in addition to having a prayer space will also have English as a second language classes, computer classes and workforce development programs.  Those closely involved with the proposed project say the focus will be on providing youth in the community with a positive place to go, but that it will be open to anyone.

“What they’re trying to do is put up all these smoke-screens to propagate fear in that community to not allow the [Muslim] community to build, and it’s absolutely unjust…for them to basically try to monopolize Sheepshead Bay and make it a Muslim free-zone,” said Debbie Almontaser, a prominent Muslim interfaith activist.  Almontaser is the board chair for the Muslim Consultative Network, which has been working with the local Muslim community in Sheepshead Bay to combat the opposition.  “If you look at the history of this community, there are churches, there are synagogues, and now it’s time to have a mosque.”

Bay People claims to have raised $30,000 to “fund a legal strategy to block the mosque by arguing it violates zoning laws and will create noise and traffic problems on the quiet block,” according to a June 30 Daily News article.

Backers of the mosque say that concerns over logistical issues have been addressed and that the opposition stems from anti-Muslim bigotry.  Parking problems will not increase because most families live in walking distance and the early morning call-to-prayer for Muslims won’t be broadcast outside, they say.  Theresa Scavo, the chairperson of Community Board 15, which serves Sheepshead Bay, dismissed concerns over traffic problems, saying that in New York City, “traffic is everywhere.”

The local community board has no formal say over the project, although they have held hearings about it.  “They have every right to build it,” said Scavo.

John Press, the head of the Brooklyn Tea Party, which protested alongside Bay People at a September 26 rally against the proposed mosque, didn’t shy away from opposing the mosque based on anti-Muslim sentiment, calling Islam a “hostile political doctrine.”

“We recognize the importance of the ‘clash of civilizations,’ and the Muslim American Society is a proponent of sharia law.  We believe that sharia law is antithetical to Western freedoms,” said Press, who doesn’t live in Sheepshead Bay and said that “a few” Brooklyn Tea Party members do.

The claims about “sharia” law and Islam as a “political doctrine” echo similar claims from anti-Muslim activists actively working to oppose the construction of new mosques around the country from lower Manhattan to Tennessee to California.

“The opponents against the proposed mosque in Sheepshead Bay erroneously brushstroke the entire Muslim community as ‘the other’ based on misinformation and at times outright bigotry,” Aliya Latif, the civil rights director for the New York chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, wrote in an email to the Indypendent.

Anti-Muslim accusations have been leveled by opponents of the mosque at a series of heated protests in the community, including a June 27 anti-mosque rally where one Sheepshead Bay resident threatened to “bomb the mosque” if it’s built, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

There have also been counter-protests to combat the opposition and to support the proposed project, like the one at a Sept. 26 rally that saw the dueling sides on two sides of Voorhies Ave.

“The day we were there, [Sept. 26], we arrived and we thought we went back to the 50’s.  There were signs all over people’s houses [reading] ‘Muslims go home,’” said Elaine Brower, an activist who lives in Staten Island and a member of the New York City Coalition to Stop Islamophobia, which has been organizing in support of the proposed mosque.  “If people don’t stand up against it in unity and show support for Muslims and Arabs in this country, it’s only going to get worse.”

Brower was also involved in supporting a proposed mosque in the Midland Beach neighborhood of Staten Island.  After a reverend initially entered into an agreement with MAS to sell a former parish convent to them so a mosque could be built, the board of St. Margaret Mary R.C. Church, which the reverend is a part of, withdrew support for the sale after about two months of harsh condemnation from local residents.  Like the Sheepshead Bay mosque controversy, residents cited concerns about parking and traffic as well as MAS’ alleged affiliation with links to terrorism.

Still, despite the vitriolic opposition to the Sheepshead Bay center, Allowey Ahmed, the owner of the property at 2812 Voorhies Ave., is moving forward with his plans.  Ahmed, a Yemeni-American and long-time Brooklyn resident, estimated that over $1 million in funds will need to be raised for the community center, and that he hopes construction will begin in the next few months.

“What is right is going to prevail,” said Ahmed.  “We believe we are on the right track, because we believe we are sending a good and positive message.”