Amid resistance from neighbors and nationwide attention, a plan to build a Muslim youth camp on federal land moved ahead yesterday with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of a scaled-down proposal.

As WorldNetDaily reported, the newly formed Muslim Youth Camps Association, or MYCA, wants to build a facility at a site in Northern Iowa formerly leased to the Girl Scouts for $1 a year. Most opponents have expressed environmental concerns, while some fear it could be used by extremists as a “camouflage” for terrorist activity.



Plan for Muslim prayer tower (Iowa City Press-Citizen photo)

Lease negotiations will begin when the Muslim group gives the Corps a new design plan, said Corps spokesman Ron Fournier, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

Approval to proceed with the project came after Col. William J. Bayles, the Corps’ Rock Island, Ill., district commander, signed off on an independent study concluding the MYCA’s plan would have no significant environmental effect, the Iowa City paper said.

The organization will not be required to have another environmental assessment when it submits its revised plan.

Originally, the Muslim group proposed a 7,500-square-foot convention center, 10 cabins, 12 tent camping platforms and a 75-foot tall prayer tower. Its second choice, according to a Nov. 12 report by the Corps, proposes a 2,400-square-foot lodge, five cabins and five tent camping platforms, with no mention of a prayer tower.

“It’s a very positive decision,” MYCA President Manzoor Ali said, according to the Press-Citizen. “We really appreciate it. But we’ll see how much ‘scale down’ means. Whatever we decide, it’s a very positive decision for everyone, not just for us but for everyone.”

The site was used by the Girls Scouts until 1990 when a fire destroyed their lodge.

The Press-Citizen said if the MYCA is unwilling to accept the Corps’ offer for a reduced design plan, other non-profit groups will be free to submit proposals.

Public forum broadcast live

The MYCA’s project has sparked the interest of national talk-show host Mike Gallagher, who will air his radio program tomorrow morning from Iowa City. Gallagher believes federal property should not be used for a religious purpose. His broadcast will include a public forum on the issue.

Manzoor Ali, president of MYCA, has insisted the project is “not a religious organization and that is not in our proposal.”

He has said, however, it would be more than a rustic camp.

“Our idea is that it will be an educational plus recreational camp on a solid foundation, not on just a tent foundation,” he told the Des Moines Register. “It should be like an institute where students from different cultures and inter-faith groups could come and exchange their ideas, open their minds.”

The Press-Citizen said MYCA members and Corps representatives will not attend Gallagher’s forum.

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