First, the facts: The organization that will own and operate the "Islamic Cultural Center," first known as Cordoba House, has not as yet been formed. Although it is claimed by many that both Christians and Jews serve on the board of directors, the reality is that the corporation, which is planned to be tax-exempt under IRS rule 501(c)3, does not yet exist. The man alleged to be the main planner, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, will be one of only 22 planned board members, according to developer Sharif el-Gamal who purchased the land (with an existing building that will be demolished) for Cordoba House with cash. Sharif el-Gamal, who is 37 years old and just a few years ago was waiting tables at a restaurant in New York City, refuses to reveal who furnished the cash to buy the construction site. He has been arrested numerous times on assault charges as well as soliciting for prostitution. El-Gamal is also delinquent on payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars of property tax on the building to be replaced by the Ground Zero mega-mosque.
One of the main financial backers of Sharif el-Gamal is Hisham Elzanaty who holds mortgages on other properties he is developing. Elzanaty owns several medical clinics in New York. The New York office of the Medicare inspector general has sent a summons to Elzanaty claiming that his clinics billed for unsubstantiated charges of $331,336. However, it is unknown if Elzanaty is the individual who has supplied the cash to buy the land at 51 Park. The money could have come from any individual or group anywhere in the world because Sharif el-Gamal refuses to provide any transparency at all. The funds to purchase the land could have come from the family of Osama bin Laden or perhaps the tooth fairy. There are news reports that the actual construction funds will be supplied by the the Ford Foundation and Saudi royalty.
Advertisement - story continues below
Imam Rauf, who proclaims the building will be a bridge for interfaith activity, belongs to a mosque in New York City founded by his father. In October 2001, Sheik Muhammad Gemeaha, the imam at that mosque, declared that Jews had actually attacked the Trade Center's twin towers and then departed for the Middle East. Rauf has never condemned those statements and remains on the board of directors.
The central problems most critics have with the mosque are 1) its location, and 2) the total lack of transparency of those who plan its construction. It is not an issue of the left versus the right politically, although the radical left have taken it upon themselves to be the champions of the construction of the mosque. The left claims that even though the landing gear of one of the aircraft and body parts flew into the building at 51 Park, it is not technically a part of Ground Zero. They claim that Islam is a peaceful religion hijacked by radicals, and that the proposed mosque will "build bridges." Their stance seems to be a knee jerk, "If conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians are against it, then we must be for it" reaction rather than any actual philosophical consideration.
While the far left is united behind construction of the Ground Zero mosque, the right is not united against it. CitiBank, AIG and many other large financial institutions support Shariah finance, a part of Islamic Shariah law. Economic conservatives, eager to make money from wealthy Islamic nations, back the mosque's construction. The battle line is for the most part drawn by social conservatives and the majority of family members of victims of the 9/11 attack.
Advertisement - story continues below
Social conservatives point out that since the 9/11 attacks, nearly 1,000 churches have been attacked, burned and bombed in nations that are predominately Muslim. In the first two weeks of Ramadan this year, there were more than 100 terror attacks against civilians by Muslims in China, Russia, Nigeria and more than a dozen other nations, with 500-plus killed and thousands wounded. Just recently, two Christian pastors were shot dead while handcuffed inside a Pakistani courtroom where they had falsely been accused of blasphemy.
Mosque critics, mostly social conservatives, call for Muslim Americans who claim to be moderate to spend more time condemning jihad and helping those who are victims of Islamic oppression, rather than building huge mosques in the United States that are for the most part empty, with money from wealthy Islamic nations that oppress human rights and dignity.
William J. Murray is the chairman of the Washington, D.C., based
Religious Freedom Coalition which hosts www.no911mosque.org. He will be a speaker at this month's Taking America Back conference sponsored by WND.