Thursday, October 7, 2004
Both of the major Boston papers, the Herald and the Globe, have had articles on the controversies spinning around the new Boston Mosque. The issues include the bargain-basement price the city gave the Islamic Society of Boston for the land the mosque is to be placed on, the hate literature said to be present in the group's headquarters and the virulently Judenhass writings of one of the Mosque's Saudi board members. (Both links via Jihad Watch here and here.)
First, from the Boston Herald:
Councilor Jerry P. McDermott (D-Brighton), vice chairman of the Post Audit and Oversight Committee, ordered city officials to explain why a 1.9-acre parcel along Malcolm X Boulevard, conservatively valued at $401,187, was sold to the Islamic Society of Boston for $175,000 and ``in-kind benefits'' to Roxbury Community College.
The Herald reported last week that the land deal is the subject of a lawsuit asserting that it represents an unconstitutional government subsidy of a religion: Islam.
``We want a full accounting by the end of the month,'' McDermott said. ``If they can afford a $22 million mosque, why can't they pay fair-market value for the land?''
Boston Redevelopment Authority officials said they could not comment due to the litigation.
Also yesterday, a Muslim-American scholar joined the growing chorus of voices urging the Islamic Society's leadership to disavow any connections to radical Islam.
At a press conference sponsored by Citizens for Peace and Tolerance (www.hatefreeamerica.com), Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour, an Egyptian-born political refugee once jailed there for defending moderate Islamic causes, said ``I am here to testify that this radical culture is here inside this society.''
Mansour, a former visiting fellow at Harvard Law School, said he went to the society's current headquarters in Cambridge a year ago and discovered ``Arabic-language newsletters filled with hateful statements against the United States.'' He also said the center's library housed books and videos ``representing fanatical beliefs that insult other people's religions.''
Representatives of the society have repeatedly declined to comment to the Herald since the newspaper, beginning in 2003, started highlighting ties between four of the mosque's key figures and Islamic radicals. They refused to comment yesterday on any matters.
On their Web site (www.isboston.org), the society has posted rebuttals to the Herald articles. On Sept. 10, the society posted a ``values statement'' that says: ``We, the Islamic Society of Boston, practice and promote a comprehensive, balanced view of Islam. We strive to embody the middle path to which our scriptures call us, a path of moderation, free of extremism, and representative of the Islamic vision of a healthy community.''
But Mansour said he fears radical Islamists could gain an upper hand at the new cultural center. ``I'm not against the mosque,'' he said. ``I'm against the extremists.'
And from The Globe:
As Boston officials planned to reexamine details of its sale of land to the Islamic Society amid questions about the group's connections to extremists, the ADL and Temple Israel, the largest synagogue in Boston, made public for the first time a seven-month-long dispute with Islamic Society's leaders over articles written in Arabic-language newspapers by Dr. Walid Fitaihi.
The ADL said Fitaihi is the Islamic Society of Boston's treasurer, though it is unclear what role, if any, Fitaihi plays in the Society. On the Islamic Society's 2000 tax return he is listed as a board member. On its 2001 return, he is listed as the treasurer. Islamic Society officials did not return phone calls yesterday.
Since March, the Islamic Society has ''done little to reassure" the ADL and Temple Israel that they have misinterpreted Fitaihi's writings or that other leaders of the Society don't agree with his views, the group wrote in a letter to the Society.
''In the absence of such a clarification, other allegations against the ISB are gaining greater resonance, and there remains a contradiction between your values statement and your actions," the letter says.
Robert Leikind, the ADL's regional director, urged the Society to speak out, especially after a group calling itself Citizens for Peace and Tolerance raised questions at a news conference Tuesday about the Society's alleged ties to Muslim extremists.
''It's difficult to understand why they would not seize the opportunity to condemn and disassociate expressions of anti-Semitism," Leikind said. ''We are concerned over why people who we have viewed as partners would hedge on issues as important as this."...
...Leikind said the ADL and Temple Israel first reached out to the Islamic Society last March after the Boston Herald reported that Fitaihi, who is living in his native Saudi Arabia, had published a series of anti-Semitic articles including one in which he condemns Jews as ''the murderers of prophets."
According to English translations provided by the ADL, Fitaihi, an endocrinologist, also wrote that Jews will be ''scourged" because of their ''oppression, murder, and rape of the worshipers of Allah."
''They have perpetrated the worst of evils and they have brought the worst corruption to the earth, and what we see of them these days is glad tidings for the Muslim heralding the fulfillment of Allah's promise of victory after the second transgression," Fitaihi wrote in the Arabic-language London daily newspaper, Al Sharq al-Awsat, on Oct. 18, 2000.
Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel said the Jewish community's cordial relations with the Islamic Society have become strained because of the Society's failure to ''completely disassociate itself from those people who have spoken" expressions of anti-Semitism.
''We are very eager to establish and maintain significant intergroup relations with Muslim neighbors and institutions," he said....
We all want that. But let's get the issues out on the table before the mosque is built, rather than after. Just because we all want a warm, fuzzy feeling - because our tendancies toward tolerance occasionally trump our better judgement - doesn't mean we should ignore what's right before our eyes.
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