While Dearborn, Michigan is home to the largest Muslim population in the United States, Buffalo, New York, is fast becoming a serious contender for that title.
Why Buffalo, with its horrendous, inhospitable winter weather?
Wikipedia tells us that there has been a large influx of inhabitants to Buffalo of Arab descent, mainly from Yemen. This has caused the Muslim population of the city to skyrocket. Wikipedia also informs the reader that, “Since the 1950s and 1960s, the greater portion of the Jewish population has moved to the suburban areas outside of the city, or to the city’s upper West Side.”
Is the exodus of Jews a coincidence?
Why would so many Jews opt to leave Buffalo’s inner city just as the Muslim population there was exploding? Wikipedia, of course, doesn’t dare explain this. It just lays out the facts so that the reader can draw his/her own conclusions.
In 1997, The Buffalo News reported that the Muslim Community was growing in Western New York. In 2016, ‘Middle East Eye’ reported that “Muslim refugees in Buffalo defy stereotypes,” and quoted Democrat Mayor Byron Brown as saying that “Refugees are helping the city grow after decades of decline.”
In 1900, Buffalo was one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S. It was primarily known as a great railroad town, a center for steel and automotive manufacturing and its dominance in the flour milling industry. The 1950’s saw its population at a booming 589,000; by 2016, with all of the factories closed, the premier city of ‘The Rust Belt’ claimed 259,000 residents.
Buffalo’s political scene is so solidly Democrat that in 2021 there was only one candidate for mayor listed on the ballot: India Walton, a “Democratic Socialist.” Fellow Democrat Byron Brown, a loser in the primary, won reelection for a fifth term as a write-in candidate. There were no Republican candidates for mayor at all although Brown, during his campaign, criticized Walton for being a socialist while Walton said that Brown was supported by hidden Republican money.
But where do Republicans hide in Buffalo?
Last year, City Journal reported that Buffalo’s middle and high schools teach students that “American society was designed for the impoverishment of people of color and enrichment of white people,” that “the United States created a social system that had racist economic inequality built into its foundation,” and that “the wealth gap is the result of black slavery, which created unjust wealth for white people…”
Buffalo, in other words, is a perfect example of the kind of blue city you want to avoid at all costs.
And yet the liberal Brookings Institute called Buffalo the seventh most segregated city in the United States, with the liberal Institute claiming that the “Rust Belt” mindset intentionally separated blacks who migrated north during the Jim Crow-inspired Great Migration in the 1950s into the East Side section of the city divided by super highways (or makeshift Berlin Walls), an area plagued by (so called) under investment and over policing.
The Brookings report inspired a Washington Post report on how urban design “segregation markers” like highways affected how the two populations, black and white, suffered differently after the December 2022 blizzard.
The May 2022 mass shooting at the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue put Buffalo in the spotlight once again. The tragedy was encapsulated in a special New Yorker story entitled ‘American Racism and the Buffalo Shooting.’ The shooter, apparently, hated Jews as much (or even more) than he hated blacks.
The Tops shooting put Buffalo upfront and center in the extremist city category.
Yet another form of extremism hit the city back in 2002. That’s when the Buffalo area was put on an Islamic Watch terror list of sorts when the so-called Lackawanna Six were arrested for attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan before 9/11. Lackawanna is just six miles from Buffalo.
The ‘training camp’ event caused The Middle East Eye to report (a little defensively) in 2016 that,
“….Visit a mid-size city like Buffalo, a chilly corner of upstate New York with a booming refugee population, and the reality is quite different. There are no anti-immigrant protests, no graffiti-daubed mosques. Muslim refugees do not wear suicide bomb vests under their goose-down winter wear.”
Check out any You Tube video on Muslim life in Buffalo and you’ll see multiple ‘community service day’ videos where Muslim volunteers can be seen staffing BBQ carnival events, free for any city resident, where the activities range from face painting, soccer, free blood pressure tests (with a real physician in attendance), and of course generous portions of BBQ food. “They have some good old corn,” as one happy lady told a roving reporter there.
But these events are about a lot more than food and “giving back” to the community.
Information about Islam is abundant at these open air markets where clothes, furniture, household items and industrial equipment are there for the taking.
“True Islam is true Christianity the way it is supposed to be,” a male devotee announces to one community day videographer as BBQ smoke rises behind him and then parts like fading ectoplasm, revealing a towering edifice once known as Saint Ann Catholic Church and Shrine, built in 1886 by German immigrants, and recently sold to the Muslim community for an even $250,000.
The purchase of the church, as well as a school and former convent, by the Downtown Islamic Center, was at first reported by the press and by the Diocese of Buffalo as a purchase by “a group of local business people and investors.”
This attempt to hide the buyer went bust when the sale was completed in November 2022. At that time it was announced that the buyer was Buffalo Crescent Holdings, a non-profit affiliated with the Downtown Islamic Center.
The Islamic Center announced that it had been looking for a worship space, as well as a 3,000 student school and college, a shopping plaza and a funeral home.
Built by German immigrants to seat 1,200, St. Ann’s is an architectural wonder with its stunning interior of painted plaster and woodwork.
The church was closed by the Diocese in 2012 because of structural damages. The Buffalo News reported that St. Ann’s “will be at least the third Catholic church in Buffalo to be converted into a masjid, or mosque, for Muslim worship.
“Darul Uloom Al Madania in 1994 bought the former Holy Mother of Rosary Polish National Catholic Cathedral on Sycamore and Sobieski streets. And in 2009, the former Queen of Peace Church on Genesee Street was purchased and transformed into Masjid Jami. “
“This was one of the most beautiful places in Buffalo,” former parishioner Lucy Ederer, a member of a group known as Save St. Ann’s Church & Shrine, told ‘The News.’
“We fought the good fight until the very end and there wasn’t any place else to go. We went to the Supreme Court of the Vatican.”
Yet Ederer mentioned that she was glad that the church building would still be used as a place of worship. Preservationists concurred, as if Islam were merely a benign branch of Unitarianism
The secular, liberal press refused to look into the deeper meanings of the sale.
They did not ask why the Buffalo Diocese refused to sell St. Ann’s to a group of Catholics who wanted to preserve it as a Catholic Church.
What they [Buffalo News] reported was that the deal was another indication of the steady growth of the Muslim population in Western New York, “mostly due to an influx of immigrants, especially from Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country, and of refugees from war-torn areas of the world.”
But conservative Catholics like Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute—an organization devoted to the memory of the overthrow of the Ottoman Turks in 1571 by Catholic forces—told Church Militant:
“Bishops aren’t supposed to be corporate CEOs. They’re the stewards of souls. So it’s absolutely damnable for the diocese to refuse to sell this church to faithful Catholics while practically giving it to the Muslims.”
Attorney Brody Hale, co-founder and president of the St. Stephen Protomartyr Project, which works to preserve Catholic churches for sacred use, told Church Militant that he had doubts whether the guidelines of the Dicastery for the Clergy of the Holy See (the department in the Vatican that oversees the sale of churches) were followed.
Those guidelines state that it must be proven that other sources of funding must be deemed not viable before “financial insufficiency is plead as a grave cause to justify the relegation of a church to profane but not sordid use.”
Hale, unlike the preservationists, says it irks him when he hears people say that a church is just a building.
“A church as defined by canon law is a sacred edifice,” he says. “Churches as sacred buildings have fundamentally more protections under canon law than parishes.”
The real question is: why are some Catholic bishops so eager to sell churches that have been closed?
In an interview I did with Hale in 2022, he told me,
“This is not what churches are supposed to be used for according to canon law. Churches are not poker chips a bishop can use to cash out when he’s in a bind.”
In the meantime, the Buffalo Muslim group is prepared to spend millions of dollars to transform the buildings that used to constitute St. Ann’s Church and Shrine.
“We’re looking to put several million dollars into this in the next year, in the church alone,” Talha Bakth, president of Downtown Islamic Center, said.
With over 150 Catholic churches and parishes still remaining in the City of Buffalo, this bodes well for the future of mosques in the Dearborn of New York.