City of Brass

City of Brass


An interview with Park51

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The controversy over the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” project (which is not actually at Ground Zero, and of which the mosque aspect is only a tiny piece) continues unabated, with Sarah Palin entering the fray calling upon all “peaceful muslims” to “refudiate” the project because it “stabs hearts”. Of course, Sarah Palin (like myself) is no New Yorker. The good news is that a plurality of Manhattan residents support the project (including tech guru Dave Winer, in a very thoughtful supportive post), but the bad news is that a majority of New Yorkers overall still oppose it, which means that the organizers of the project have a lot of work to do.

This is why I am excited to report that Sharif el-Gamal, CEO of Soho Properties (the developer of the Park 51 project) has graciously agreed to an interview about the project. I am grateful to Sharif for taking the time to engage personally in this way.

And let’s repeat that this is not about a “mega mosque” being constructed right atop Ground Zero. The Park 51 project is a large-scale development of a community center for lower Manhattan, for arts and culture, education, and recreation. The list of facilities includes a swimming pool, 500 seat auditorium, art exhibition spaces, and even a culinary school. The broader Park51 project will include a mosque and the Cordoba House center for interfaith dialogue, but these are only small pieces of the overall vision.

My goal with the interview is to ask some hard questions, not softball it. As the polls results show, ordinary New Yorkers have genuine concerns about the project, and those concerns are being cynically exploited by people like Sarah Palin for their own political self-interest through fear and misinformation. As I said earlier, it isn’t just muslim Americans who have a stake in this project, but all Americans. Here’s a chance for Park 51 to set the record straight.

Stay tuned, I hope to have the interview up by the end of the week!



  • Felt

    Let’s get real here, just a few short years ago Sharif El-Gamal and his brother Sammy El-Gamal of SOHO Properties the Developers of the Ground Zero Mosque were waiting tables in New York City.
    Sharif El-Gamal was waiting tables at Serafina’s Restaurant in New York City and Sammy El-Gamal was waiting tables at Tao Restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan NY, from there they both broke into the real estate business by renting apartments on commission, they were not selling any properties.
    Sammy and Sharif El-Gamal of the SOHO Properties real estate business appear to be in their mid to late 30’s, their website is pass coded and their business phone line is voice mail only.
    In April 2007 Sharif El-Gamal and his wife buy a $1 million dollar apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In early 2009 Sharif El-Gamal as SOHO PROPERTIES spent $45.7 million for a 12-story Chelsea office building at 31 West 27th Street Manhattan NY. In April 2002 Sharif El-Gamal was waiting tables at Serafina’s Restaurant in New York City for minimum wage and tips.
    Sammy and Sharif El-Gamal of SOHO Properties have been throwing around $$$ Millions of dollars in cash, buying apartments for themselves and expensive Manhattan Commercial buildings, where does tha cash come from ?????
    In July 2009 Sharif El-Gamal sets up SOHO PROPERTIES GENERAL PARTNER, LLC a Delaware corporation as a foreign entity in the New York State Division of Corporations and buys the old Burlington Coat Factory property at 45 Park Place for $4.8 million for cash (in July 2009), where did the cash come for the old Burlington Coat Factory property at 45 Park Place that is to be rehabed into a Mosque and where will the $100 Million come from to rehab the building into a Mosque ???
    Sharif El-Gamal the CEO of SOHO Properties and the developer of the Ground Zero Mosque grew up and went to school in Tripoli Libya Under Muammar Gaddafi.
    What other projects have Moammar Khadafy (Gaddafi) and Ground Zero Mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf teamed up together on besides the Gaza aid ships running the Israeli blockade?
    Where is the $100 million dollars coming from to rehab the Old Burlington Coat Factory at 45 Park Place Manhattan NY into a Mosque of Grand Palace Proportions fit for a visitng Dictator to lower Manhattan with no place to stay. Construction is set to begin September 11th, 2011 on the Ground Zero Mosque rehab of 45 Park Place Manhattan NY.

  • Joanne
  • Andrew

    Imam Feisal Rauf, the central figure in the coterie planning a huge mosque just off Ground Zero, is a full-throated champion of the very same Muslim theologians and jurists identified in a landmark NYPD report as central to promoting the Islamic religious bigotry that fuels modern jihad terrorism.
    This fact alone should compel Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg to withdraw their support for the proposed mosque.
    In August 2007, the NYPD released “Radicalization in the West — The Homegrown Threat.” This landmark 90-page report looked at the threat that had become apparent since 9/11, analyzing the roots of recent terror plots in the United States, from Lackawanna, NY, to Portland, Ore., to Fort Dix, NJ.
    The report noted that Saudi “Wahhabi” scholars feed the jihadist ideology, legitimizing an “extreme intolerance” toward non-Muslims, especially Jews, Christians and Hindus. In particular, the analysts noted that the “journey” of radicalization that produces homegrown jihadis often begins in a Wahhabi mosque.
    The term “Wahhabi” refers to the 18th century founder of this austere Islamic tradition, Muhammad bin Abdul al-Wahhab, who claimed inspiration from 14th century jurist Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyyah.
    At least two of Imam Rauf’s books, a 2000 treatise on Islamic law and his 2004 “What’s Right with Islam,” laud the implementation of sharia — including within America — and the “rejuvenating” Islamic religious spirit of Ibn Taymiyyah and al-Wahhab.
    He also lionizes as two ostensible “modernists” Jamal al-Dinal-Afghani (d. 1897), and his student Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905). In fact, both defended the Wahhabis, praised the salutary influence of Ibn Taymiyyah and promoted the pretense that sha ria — despite its permanent advocacy of jihad and dehumanizing injunctions on non-Muslims and women — was somehow compatible with Western concepts of human rights, as in our own Bill of Rights.
    In short, Feisal Rauf’s public image as a devotee of the “contemplative” Sufi school of Islam cannot change the fact that his writings directed at Muslims are full of praise for the most noxious and dangerous Muslim thinkers.
    Indeed, even the classical Sufi master that Rauf extols, the 12th-century jurist Abu Hamed Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali, issued opinions on jihad and the imposition of Islamic law on the vanquished non-Muslim populations that were as bellicose and bigoted as those of Ibn Taymiyyah.
    Also relevant is the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow program run by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, an organization founded by Rauf and now run by his wife. Among the future leaders it has recognized are one of the co-authors of a “denunciation” of the NYPD report, a counter-report endorsed by all major Wahhabi-front organizations in America. Another “future leader” of interest to New Yorkers: Debbie Almontaser, the onetime head of the city’s Khalil Gibran Academy.
    More revealing is the fact that Rauf himself has refused to sign a straightforward pledge to “repudiate the threat from authoritative sharia to the religious freedom and safety of former Muslims,” a pledge issued nine months ago by ex-Muslims under threat for their “apostasy.” That refusal is a tacit admission that Rauf believes that sharia trumps such fundamental Western principles as freedom of conscience.
    Wahhabism — whether in the form promoted by Saudi money around the globe, or in the more openly nihilist brand embraced by terrorists — is a totalitarian ideology comparable to Nazism or, closer still, the “state Shintoism” of imperial Japan. We would never have allowed a Shinto shrine at the site of the Pearl Harbor carnage — especially one to serve as a recruiting station for Tokyo’s militarists while World War II was still on.
    For the same reasons, we must say no to a Wahhabi mosque at Ground Zero.

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