Mosque-ow On The Hudson


Posted on : 8/12/2010 08:52:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I still maintain misgivings about the proposed project that would place a mosque and "Islamic center" a couple blocks of the World Trade Center site.  Originally, I was concerned that the project was really intended to provide a stealth victory for more radical Islamic elements.  Most of that concern was based on a few episodes where the front man for the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, had made statements in the Arabic press and other non-US venues that suggested that he was less than supportive of a multi-cultural, multi-religious society than his US and English based pronouncements would suggest.

Arab Muslim leaders are known for offering an opinion that is palatable to the west when speaking to western audiences or western media while simultaneously saying something far more dire in the Arabic press or to Arab audiences. 

I am a little less skeptical regarding the project upon reading this item by David Frum that suggests that while Mr. Rauf may be the front man for the project, the real driving force may be the money men that need to raise enough capital to purchase some of the land required for the project.

The mosque developers are three Arab-American businessmen: Sharif and Sammy el-Gamal and Nour Moussa. They have a partner in Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim writer and publicist who does most of the talking. But the money and credit pledged to the project belong to the company owned by Moussa and the el-Gamals, Soho Properties.

Soho Properties has paid some $5 million in cash to buy the Burlington Coat Factory building, a building that yields no income. They are paying rent to hold rights to the Con Ed building, which also yields no income. All of this in the midst of the worst commercial property slump in memory, in an area of New York with a very uncertain economic future. And these are not super-rich guys: Sharif el-Gamal lives in an Upper West Side apartment purchased in 2007 for $1 million.


You can see why the Gamal-Moussa team would be dazzled by the notion that philanthropists in the Persian Gulf might donate $100 million to raise a grand gleaming Islamic center in lower Manhattan. You can tuck a lot of development fees into a $100 million project. And if not a mosque … what else do you do with their two loser properties on Park Place?

Still, the presumption that they could build a mosque so close to the World Trade Center site and purposefully hold the "grand opening" or "dedication" or whatever on September 11th is particularly galling.  Perhaps these gentlemen are simply tone deaf.  While this group may be businessmen focused on making a profit using a moderate religious front man to generate funding, the more radical elements of Islam will perceive the opening of a mosque located near the World Trade Center site on September 11th as a huge victory for their version of Islam.  Their perception will be unaffected by the intentions or actions of the group that has proposed the project.

Of course, this entire episode has spawned a round of imagining tasteless construction projects.  My personal example would be locating a USO office across the street from Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan.

Greg Gutfeld is supposedly moving forward with a real construction project to be located close to the Cordoba House project that is equally tasteless; a Muslim gay bar complete with alcohol and non-alcohol serving areas [located next to the Cordoba House project].

Naturally that project has spawned yet another round of verbal fireballs being tossed back and forth.  It has also yielded this little bit of wisdom from the folks behind Cordoba House.

You’re free to open whatever you like. If you won’t consider the sensibilities of Muslims, you’re not going to build dialog

And the sensibilities of New Yorkers when it comes to the location of a certain new mosque?

Well the irony certainly is thick these days.  You can almost cut it with a knife.

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