An identified group with unknown sponsors has purchased building steps away from where the WorldTrade Center once stood -- to turn it into potentially one of the largest New York City mosques.
At the moment the building, the old Burlington Coat Factory, already serves as a mini-mosque: an iron grill lifts every Friday afternoon for a little known Imam leading prayers a few yards away from where Osama Bin Laden’s airborne Islamist bombers killed nearly 3000 people back in 2001.
The Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, told the New York Times -- which put the story on its front page Wednesday -- that he has assembled several million dollars to turn it into ‘’an Islamic center near the city’s most hallowed piece of land that would stand as one of ground zero’s more unexpected and striking neighbors.’’
The 61-year-old Imam said he paid $4.85 million for it -- in cash, records show. With 50,000 square feet of air rights and enough financing, he plans an ambitious project of $150 million, he said, akin to the Chautauqua Institution, the 92 Street Y or the Jewish Community Center.
The origins of such monies are unexplained; neither are the countries or entity advancing such huge donations. Most US mosques, including many in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx are funded directly or indirectly by Saudi Arabia the country to which 15 of the 19 hijackers who bombed the World TradeCenter belonged. The UAE, Qatar and Iran are other major sponsors across the USA.
The money trail is an important question that must be answered by the Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg with more than a bland comment by one of his spokesmen, Andrew Brent, who quipped to the Times, “If it’s legal, the building owners have a right to do what they want.”
At the moment, the location is not designated a mosque, but rather an overflow prayer space for another mosque, Al Farah, at 245 West Broadway in TriBeCa, where Imam Feisal is the spiritual leader. Call this creeping annexation. On 9/11, the Burlington building, with 80 employees in its basement, is where a piece of a plane plunged through the roof, from either Flight 11 or Flight 175 crashing into the south tower at 9:03 a.m..
One of the investors for future oncoming funds is listed as the Cordoba Initiative, defined as an ‘’interfaith group’’ - and founded by Imam Feisal. Cordoba is the name militant Muslims often invoke when they recall the glory of Muslim empire in the centuries they occupied Spain.
As a former New York Times and Wall Street Journal correspondent, and as a New York Sun columnist who covered Islamic Fundamentalism extensively overseas and in the USA, I find the facts oddly lacking. The story as reported fails to answer, and avoid asking, so many pertinent questions.
The source of money matters as a significant part of the hundreds of mosques being built and already erected in this country double up as cultural Islamic centers for distributing literature-- Islamist propaganda in fact—from Bay Ridge Brooklyn to Detroit, and for schooling growing Muslim minorities. They house Imams of unknown origin and education, many of whom do not speak a word of English but preach in Arabic and Urdu -- radical messages, it often turns out.
As a reporter familiar with the Arab communities of the USA, I doubt the faithful fork out all that money for mega mosques, and if they did, the mayor’s office should prove it, not merely accept someone’s say so. It is an established fact that a significant percentage of the mosques built in the USA in the past two decades are receiving a disproportionate amount of their funds not only from the Saudis, but also the UAE, Qatar and Iran -- all problematic Islamists activist nations. The government just discontinued work on a major Iranian-funded mosque and center in New York City, which had operated under the radar since the days of the good old Shah of Iran under the auspices of the Pahlavi Foundation, and has beenowned since 1979 by the Mullahs of Iran.
The context here is that 15 of the 19 perpetrators of the attacks -- on the very site where this new mosque shall rise -- came from Saudi Arabia.
We saw how, in the case of Major Nidal Hasan of Ft. Hood, it turned out that three of the original participants in 9/11 had listened to the same preacher Major Hasan listened to: a man with a radical violent Islamic website now operating out of Yemen to radicalize American Muslims. In such a context,knowing more about the Imam overseeing a potential multimillion mosque at the World Trade Center site is essential to the story. Nearly 3,000 people were deliberately killed there – and the New York Times is papering over what is about to be built on the site in a nice, beatific pseudo-profile of the Imamoverseeing the mosque? Limiting access to this Imam to some nice quotes, showing him nattily dressed in a suit, and describing him merely as a Sufi, is vacuous, crafted and couched in public relations spin to obscure rather than explain. ‘’What happened that day was not Islam’’ is all that the Times quotes the Imam saying -- a rather lame comment given the enormity of his ambition and the iconic status of where he wants to put his mosque.
The mayor’s office should tell us more.
Just as importantly, who Is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf ? And what is his background? Given that much Islamist radicalism originated in mosques at the hands of imams in virtually all the terrorist attacks inAmerica and Europe -- as we found over and over again – the omission of this information is a glaring mishap.
All we get learn about the Imam in the Times story about him is some anodyne, rather anemic, focus on a man of peace. No real searching. Mayor Bloomberg’s folks need to tell us what are the Imam’s origins, where he was schooled, whether he is an immigrant, a visitor, of which country is he a citizen, and what is his philosophy, among other relevant questions.
Merely describing the man as a Sufi ‘’who follows a path of Islam focused more on spiritual wisdom than on strict ritual,’’ is far too little . After every terrorist atrocity, any number of Sufi and Muslims savants ritually come out with the hackneyed saying: ‘’Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood.’’ Accumulated as they are, these statements are added a heap of nothing for those tens of thousands of Muslims killed by other Muslims in suicide and other bombings from Pakistan to Iraq every day.
One would hope for a follow-up story or stories, and that New York City and its citizens at least ask harder questions, rather than submit to being mislead in the interest of political correctness.