New York area Muslims deal with backlash from Bin Laden’s death – the Examiner – May 11, 2011

New York area Muslims deal with backlash from Bin Laden’s death

by Armir Taraj, The Examiner

May 11, 2011

Several local and international newspapers have recently reported on acts of vandalism on New York and New Jersey Muslim sites following the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.

The Gothamist reported on May 10th that a planned mosque’s fence in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, had been defaced with Bin Laden Graffiti: “Osama bin Laden’s death roused up strong feelings of patriotism and jingoistic drink recipes—and it also inspired someone to inform a proposed Brooklyn mosque of the Al Qaeda leader’s death by way of graffiti. Sheepshead Bites reports that “He is dead” and smiley faces were spray painted onto the fence outside a controversial mosque site. The mosque’s organizers called it a “hateful act.”

The Brooklyn Paper also reported on the story as part of its coverage of the larger story on the Sheepshead Bay Mosque winning approval by Judge Mark Partnow on Tuesday, May 10th: “A state judge ruled that the construction of a controversial mosque in Sheepshead Bay can move forward shortly after a lawyer for the developer hinted that opponents of the plan are terrorists — citing inflammatory graffiti cheering the death of Osama bin Laden at the mosque site.”

BBC also published an article on the same mosque’s recent approval titled “Brooklyn mosque row reflects wider tensions” in which it covered recent anti-mosque opposition throughout America: “For the defence, lawyer Lamis Deek said a “terrorising environment” had been created for the Muslim community in Sheepshead Bay. After Osama Bin Laden’s killing, graffiti reading “He’s Dead” went up at the construction site. The case was motivated by “racism and hatred”, Ms Deek said.”
Opponents of the mosque had claimed that the mosque’s construction would create traffic congestion and parking problems.

BBC further reported that “In the same neighbourhood, a third of a mile (0.5km) away, was a much larger church, without off-street parking, and a synagogue that’s under construction.” Neither of these two projects had received any opposition.
The Freehold Patch reported on Tuesday, May 10th, that the Freehold Turkish American Community Center had issued a statement condemning the vandalism that took place at their center on Monday, May 9th, in which a US flag that was displayed in front of the center had been stolen and replaced with a damaged one which had then been raised upside down: “We the Turkish American Community Center condemn the act of vandalism  on our building and insulting our US flag by someone replacing our well maintained and displayed US flag with a tattered one in front of our community center,” the press release stated. “Any act of vandalism is deplorable. But vandalism against a cultural center and places of learning, are particularly cowardly and hateful.”
Such incidents are not confined to the Tristate area. The Huffington Post reported on Tuesday, May 10th, that a local mosque in Louisiana’s Shreveport-Bossier City had been defaced: “According to police reports, a white male was seen tampering with the doors of a local mosque on Monday, and raw pork was found hanging from the door handles after his departure. Adherents of Islam do not consume pork, which they consider unclean”
The Huffington Post also reported in the same article that, earlier this week, a mosque in Amherst, NY had been targeted with a sign planted next to it that said: “Bomb making – next driveway”

Alleged Sheepshead Bay Racists Lose Mosque Legal Battle – Gothamist – May 11, 2011

Alleged Sheepshead Bay Racists Lose Mosque Legal Battle – Gothamist – May 11, 2011

From The Gothamist, May 11, 2011

By John Del Signore

Opponents of an under-construction mosque in Sheepshead Bay lost a preliminary legal battle yesterday when a Kings County Supreme Court judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction stopping construction at the site. You’ll recall that some local residents fear the mosque would create traffic congestion in the neighborhood, and they’ve vowed to stop the project in court. But after yesterday’s decision, the opposition group, Bay People, accused the defense attorney of labeling them racist. In a press release, they rant:

[Judge] Portnow denied a preliminary injunction without giving a reason for his decision. He ruled from the bench within minutes, which appears that his ruling was pre-determined. Deek, the defense attorney, had only one argument, the “race card” and called Bay People and Sheepshead Bay residents racists and terrorists and added that there are hundreds and hundreds Muslim families living in Sheepshead Bay and that they will all walk to the mosque and not drive.Our next steps would be to appeal this decision immediately. Moreover we are commencing an action against the New York City Department of Buildings for failing to adequately consider our zoning challenge via unreasonable delays and erroneously granting a building permit in the face of numerous violations on lies on the application.

As this video of an angry Sheepshead Bay protest from March showed, these people really hate this mosque. (Someone recently used the fence to remind the mosque that Osama bin Laden was dead.)And they have Councilman Lew Fidler in their corner; Sheepshead Bites reports that Fidler has written a letter to the DOB demanding they “follow the letter of the law and provide access to the publicly available materials.” Bay People argued yesterday that “construction cannot take place and cause irreparable harm to the neighboring properties and the community at large.” They also claim structural drawings have not been made available, and for several months now the Department of Buildings office workers have told them it was because the copy machine was broken.

“It was a win for justice,” says Ibrahim Anse, a member of the committee overseeing the construction. “Freedom and peace. God bless the USA.”

Contact the author of this article or email with further questions, comments or tips.

Mosque moves forward despite ‘terrorism’ – NY Post – May 10, 2011

Mosque moves forward despite ‘terrorism’

Judge OK Sheepshead Bay house of worship after lawyer claims opponents spread terror

By Thomas Tracy, Courier-Life, New York Post

May 10, 2011

A state judge ruled that the construction of a controversial mosque in Sheepshead Bay can move forward shortly after a lawyer for the developer hinted that opponents of the plan are terrorists — citing inflammatory graffiti cheering the death of Osama bin Laden at the mosque site.

On Tuesday, Judge Mark Partnow dismissed a lawsuit filed by the anti-mosque organization Bay People and neighbors of the as-of-right project on Voorhies Avenue between E. 28th and E. 29th streets, ruling that the mosque wouldn’t adversely effect the neighborhood.

The ruling came shortly after the lawyer for mosque builder Ahmed Allowey accused opponents of the plan of acting like racist terrorists.

“This is entirely motivated by racism,” said attorney Lamis Deek. “[The Bay People] has forced my client to expend his resources for no good cause and terrorize people with the vitriolic rallies that they hold.”

She added that the anti-mosque group would never have complained if a church or synagogue was being constructed.

“[They] claim that the mosque will be a nuisance and will be out of character with the neighborhood,” she said. “They’ve held rallies, protests and filed repeated complaints with the city, but have never done anything like this to a nearby church that doesn’t have any on site parking or a nearby synagogue that’s twice the size of the mosque.”

The Bay People do have a reputation of holding protests laced with anti-Muslim sentiment. Some protestors have even claimed that the Muslim American Society — which will take over the operation of the community center once it’s built — has ties to terrorism, although no direct evidence connecting the two has ever surfaced.

On top of that, the decision comes on the heels of a vandal spray painting a “happy face” and the words “He’s dead” on the fence surrounding the mosque site in an apparent attempt to taunt mosque supporters over the death of bin Laden.
The graffiti was discovered on May 5, four days after bin Laden’s killing by Navy Seals.

But a lawyer for the Bay People claimed the group is not anti-Muslim.

“We do not have a problem with the fact that this is a mosque,” attorney Albery Butzel said, pointing out that the mosque would have no on-site parking. “This is a residential neighborhood and the mosque has been plunked down in the center. Problems with street parking will be extreme.”

During the half-hour hearing, Partnow hammered Butzel over the parking issue, demanding to know what evidence the attorney had proving that most congregates would drive there.

Butzel provided a list of potential worshippers, claiming that most of the people on the list lived “more than a half-mile away” from the mosque.

“My clients live there and they say that there are not a lot of Muslims in a four to five block area,” Butzel said. “It’s a mixed area, but there are not a lot of Muslim families around.”

But Deek claimed that the Bay People were blind to their surroundings.

“[The Bay People] simply refuse to acknowledge the existence of Muslims in their community,” she said. “More than 90 people who will be coming to the mosque live within 10 blocks of it.”

After the ruling, opponents lashed out against decision and accused Deek of “playing the race card.”

“This is very painful for us,” said one opponent, who only identified herself as Tatiyana. “We are being hurt by this mosque and all [Deek] did was play on the judge’s emotions and make false accusations that she couldn’t prove. Anyone with common sense would see that this mosque is going to affect the welfare of people living on Voorhies Avenue.”

Allowey celebrated Partnow’s decision.

“We knew that the justice system was not going to fail us,” he said. “We’re going to continue with the construction and continue to be good neighbors.”

Read original story:

Brooklyn mosque row reflects wider tensions – BBC – May 10, 2011

Brooklyn mosque row reflects wider tensions

By Laura Trevelyan BBC News, New York

Mosque site
Some argue the row over the Sheepshead Bay mosque is the latest sign of US “Islamophobia”
Inside a Brooklyn courtroom on Tuesday, the latest confrontation between Muslim Americans wanting to build a mosque and protesters wishing to stop construction unfolded.

“Equal and exact justice to all men,” read the words of US President Thomas Jefferson, inscribed on the court’s wall.

Assembled in the packed courtroom were different residents from Sheepshead Bay – some Muslim Americans, others from a group called Bay People who were applying for an injunction to halt the construction of a mosque in their neighbourhood.

The nation founded on the principle of freedom of religious worship is seeing disputes from Tennessee to New York’s Staten Island, as Muslims wishing to build places of worship run into opposition – almost 10 years after the 9/11 attacks.

The most high profile case was the Islamic centre to be built close to Ground Zero in Manhattan – now it was the turn of what critics call the Brooklyn “mega-mosque”.

Racism dispute

If the mosque in Sheepshead Bay were built, traffic, parking difficulties and the noise of the call to prayer would be disruptive, Bay People has claimed.

“The neighbourhood residents are mostly of Italian/Russian/Jewish/Irish descent and will not benefit from having a mosque and a Muslim community centre,” the group’s website states.

But others accuse the organisation of a thinly-veiled anti-Muslim agenda.

Albert Butzel, the lawyer representing Bay People, told the Judge Mark Partnow: “Despite the defendant’s claim that the basis for our opposition is racism, that is simply not the case. ”

Mr Butzel said the opposition to the mosque arose from its location in the middle of a residential, low-rise area.

The same arguments would apply to a church or synagogue, he said.

The “invasive facility”, three stories high, would create traffic problems, as it would not have off-street parking.

“We believe zoning regulations have been violated but the department of buildings does not,” said Mr Butzel.

For the defence, lawyer Lamis Deek said a “terrorising environment” had been created for the Muslim community in Sheepshead Bay.

Barack Obama lays a wreath at Ground Zero The death of Osama Bin Laden is said to have stirred some incidents of anti-Muslim sentiment

After Osama Bin Laden’s killing, graffiti reading “He’s Dead” went up at the construction site.

The case was motivated by “racism and hatred”, Ms Deek said.

In the same neighbourhood, a third of a mile (0.5km) away, was a much larger church, without off-street parking, and a synagogue that’s under construction.

“Why not have rallies and protests against the church and the synagogue that’s nearly built?” asked Ms Deek, who pointed out that there were two six-storey buildings directly behind the site of the mosque.

Case thrown out

After both sides had made their case, Judge Mark Partnow announced that based on the evidence, the application to halt construction of the mosque had been denied – to loud applause from the mosque’s supporters.

“I’m so pleased, I’m beyond relieved,” said Huwaida Mansoor, a young Muslim American woman from Sheepshead Bay.

“My daughter saw that graffiti after Osama Bin Laden’s death, and I had to explain it all to her. It’s so sad that you have to do that,” Diana Mohamed said.

She added: “I’m happy with the result. Living with the protesters and hearing what they say, seeing those signs, the hateful looks, it’s really bad, we just want to live peacefully.”

Lenny Nor was disappointed by the judge’s ruling.

“My window is across from the construction. We are worried about where they will all park,” Mr Nor said.

“There’s no racism. The problem is they’re playing the anti-Muslim card,” said another man from Sheepshead Bay, who didn’t want to give his name.

Lamis Deek

Nationwide conflict

This is an issue which goes far beyond a Brooklyn courtroom.

Muslim Americans building places of worship are encountering fierce opposition across America, where freedom of religious expression is a constitutional right.

The Sheepshead Bay case has attracted prominent US critics of Islam, like the blogger Pamela Geller, who played a leading role in the protests against the proposed Ground Zero Islamic Center.

Ms Geller takes issue with the Muslim American Society, the group backing the Sheepshead Bay mosque.

“It’s a proxy of the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist organisation,” she says.

She adds: “They’re violating building codes, yet the city, and government officials are in the tank on these issues, it’s political correctness.”

“They’re trying to establish a rabat, a beachhead, in a small residential neighbourhood.”

Ms Deek told the BBC that the idea that Muslims were foreigners no matter how long they had lived in a neighbourhood was racism, intensified by the political environment.

But she sensed a change, as Muslims assert their constitutional right to freedom of worship.

“The Muslim community is tired of being victimised,” Ms Deek said.

While local opponents of the Sheepshead Bay mosque state their opposition in terms of noise concerns, national critics of Islam see its construction as yet another encroachment by what they believe is a repressive ideology.

Muslim Americans are determined to stand up for their rights. Bin Laden’s death has done nothing to lessen the mutual suspicion between the different sides.

Debbie Almontaser, of the Muslim Consultative Network, a group advising Sheepshead Bay Muslims, says Muslim Americans will stand up for those rights against what she calls a national epidemic stemming from Islamophobia.