Saturday, 20 September 2008
And is being run openly by an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim American Society. From The Boston Globe:
Sixteen years after 2 acres near Roxbury Crossing were designated for use as a mosque, the area's growing Muslim community has quietly begun using the building for regular worship.
Every night since the start of Ramadan this month, hundreds of Muslims have been gathering for evening prayers at the mosque, now called the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. Officials of the Muslim American Society, which is overseeing the project, say they plan to gradually add activities throughout the fall and winter and hope to hold a formal opening of the building early next year.
The worshipers gathering at the mosque are ecstatic to finally be able to use the building, which has been delayed for years by fund-raising troubles, controversy surrounding various mosque supporters, and litigation. Last year they held three Ramadan services in the building, but it had no walls or concrete floors; now they are in the building nightly. Mosque officials say they have raised, through donations and noninterest loans, $15 million toward the $15.5 million they need to open the building, and the construction work is largely complete.
"This is such a happy occasion for the Muslim community - this has been a project in the making for decades," said Hossam Al Jabri, president of the Muslim American Society's Boston chapter, which has taken over management of the mosque from the Islamic Society of Boston, which runs a mosque in Cambridge. "It's strange, but I'm thankful that we had to go through the difficulty, because it forced us to come out of an isolation that we were comfortable in, and helped us to see that we have a world out there that is interested to know who we are. And it helped us to make so many friends."...
Determining the size of the Muslim population is an inexact science. The Muslim American Society estimates that about 120,000 Muslims live in Massachusetts; a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found the population to be less than 32,000.
The population, reflecting that of the overall Muslim population in the US, is made up largely of three ethnic groups: people of South Asian descent, people of Middle Eastern descent, and African-Americans. The local population also includes a relatively high number of Somali immigrants, mosque officials said.
The mosque has been controversial for years. A conservative Israel-advocacy organization called the David Project asserted that some of the mosque's founding leaders had links to terrorism. In 2005, the Islamic Society filed a lawsuit against the David Project and two media outlets, saying that those allegations were defamatory, but dropped the suit last year after another suit, challenging the mosque's construction, was also dropped.
Although mosque construction has proved controversial in many places around the country, it has been particularly contentious in Boston, according to a national watchdog group.
"Usually we find there's some level of resistance, but the situation in your area was unique in its level of vitriol and viciousness," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It was atypical in the level of controversy that was generated by those who were opposed to the mosque, and I don't mean legitimate controversy, I mean fake controversy. There's an effort by some minority of people in any community who seek to marginalize Muslims and demonize Islam, and that's what we saw in this case."
The leading critic of the mosque, Charles Jacobs, said he continues to have concerns about the mosque's leadership, but that "our concerns were never with the rank and file of the Muslim community."
Jacobs was president of the David Project until leaving the post in July.
"Our concern was with the leadership, and the ties that that leadership had, it seemed, to terrorism and the teaching of hatred," Jacobs said. He said he has ongoing concerns about the Islamic Society of Boston and the Muslim American Society, both of which, he says, have expressed extremist views. He said "it's been estimated that 80 percent of mosques are radicalized" but that "it's very difficult for American citizens to speak about these things, because they don't want to be labeled as bigots or Islamophobes, so that has allowed these connections to go much unspoken and unreported."...
Posted on 09/20/2008 10:14 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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