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News :: Human Rights
Boston Saudi-funded mosque
01 Dec 2008
This was the title of the Boston Phoenix's lead story last week, featuring on the cover an image of Mayor Menino serving up a new mosque on a silver platter to --- the story argues -- exactly the wrong people.

The Phoenix report is the first public account of how a well intentioned Mayor tried to help local African-American Muslims in Roxbury build a mosque, but wound up subsidizing what many in Boston worry is a Saudi-funded and controlled center with connections to radical Islam --- a mile from downtown.

Phoenix reporter David Bernstein sketches a complex tale of good intentions gone awry. At the center of Bernstein's account is Muhammad Ali-Salaam, who played a double role: as promoter and fundraiser for the mosque, while being paid as a city official to guard Boston's interests.

Twenty years ago, Bernstein says, the Muslim Council of Boston (MCB), a consortium of Sunni congregations in Roxbury, proposed to build a mosque on land held by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). Mayor Ray Flynn was supportive. He had worked as a probation officer years before and came to know people at Roxbury's Intervale Street mosque who he thought "could do good for their community."

But in 1996, when it became clear that the MCB could not raise enough money, the BRA's Ali-Salaam put forward another group -- the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) --- as the designated developers and helped the ISB get the $2 million dollar parcel for $175K.

Did the BRA ever vet the ISB? Bernstein describes ISB members as "largely of Saudi Arabian heritage." Simple due diligence would have found that Yusef al Quaradawi, then a registered ISB Trustee, called for the killing of Jews and homosexuals, that the ISB's website featured instructions on wife-beating, and that ISB Trustee Walid Fitahi called Jews the "murderers of prophets." Today, the ISB's founder is in prison as an al-Queda money runner. Even the BRA should know that a mosque that gets millions from the Saudis is unlikely to be an enthusiastic promoter of moderate Islam.

Now, Bernstein says, the Mayor hides from the issue in a "zone of silence," and doesn't show up at mosque events. The BRA, which is being sued to open its public records, seems to want the silence permanent: BRA officials recently told the judge that all relevant e-mails have disappeared.

At the height of the controversy over the leadership of the mosque, the ISB claimed that it had cleansed itself of objectionable characters. Fitahi actually resigned from the ISB board. But now, Bernstein tells us, Fitahi is back.

And Bernstein reports that the ISB recently turned the mosque over to the Muslim American Society (MAS). This is a group thought by some to be the American branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, sparked and now may guide the anti-West jihad.

Has the BRA put the mayor in an untenable position? Has the time come for a FinCom investigation of the BRA/ISB/MAS deal?
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