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Making matters worse for Park51, its top investor, Hisham Elzanaty, is now being sued for running a “highly developed and sophisticated kickback scheme” involving insurance fraud. Allstate Insurance is suing him for $5.1 million. He’s also being sued by State Farm for $1.9 million and by Geico for $1.7 million. That’s a total of $8.7 million. This same individual donated $6,000 to the Holy Land Foundation, which has been found guilty of being a front for Hamas set up by the Muslim Brotherhood. It has not been proven that he knew this when he made the donation.
The Ground Zero Mosque is facing severe financial difficulties that are undermining the project. In a PBS documentary that aired about the controversy, el-Gamal is seen saying, “This idea has no funds. I’m at a deficit…I don’t even know how we’ve gotten this far.” Fundraising has fallen far short of the $100 million Park51 needed for its original vision. A federal grant for $5 million was denied by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in September. The group is also facing tough questions about its transparency and sources of funds.
El-Gamal complains about the lack of support from the American-Muslim community. About 35 percent oppose the Ground Zero Mosque, and apparently, those who do support it aren’t willing to provide help. In the aforementioned documentary, el-Gamal laments, “Where’s the Muslim community…I would expect that we’d have a line out the doors of people saying, ‘Thank you’…We don’t have that.” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the former spokesman for Park51, is among those Muslim supporters of the project that are unwilling to help him. In the aforementioned documentary, he ridicules el-Gamal as a “control freak.”
On September 21, Park51 tried to save itself from the stream of negative coverage by opening up part of the Ground Zero Mosque for a photo exhibit. This was a ploy designed to demoralize opponents by declaring an early victory. This should not overshadow the questions that are emerging about the integrity of Park51, the well-reported concerns about their beliefs and the facts about their fundraising woes. These latest developments, again, put Park51 in a damaging light and even those who feel the project is a good thing, should be re-evaluating whether this is a group they should support.
Former New York City firefighter and first-responder on 9/11, Tim Brown, is mounting a legal challenge to stop the Ground Zero Mosque in its tracks. When the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission decided against declaring the site slated to become the Ground Zero Mosque as a landmark, he sued. His lawsuit was dismissed when the judge ruled that he didn’t have legal standing. Brown is going to appeal the decision, giving Park51 another headache to deal with.
The fight is not over. Sharif el-Gamal is dedicated to constructing that mosque as much as his opponents are dedicated to stopping it. However, although it’s too soon to cheer, hardly a month goes by without something going wrong for Park51. Opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque have good reasons to smile.
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