The developers behind Park51, often referred to as the Ground Zero mosque and Islamic center, are applying for the $5 million Lower Manhattan Development Grant meant to rebuild the part of New York City devastated on 9⁄11. Should they succeed, some of their programs will be subsidized by American taxpayers against their will.
Park51 has confirmed their application, saying that although the money cannot go directly to religious services, the grant will fund “domestic violence prevention, Arabic and other foreign language classes, programs and services for homeless veterans, two multi-cultural art exhibits and immigration services.” In other words, the taxpayers will pay for Park51’s outreach to the community.
“All I know is that we asked for assistance from the LMDC to give our dead decent and proper burials and were rejected,” said Dianne Horning of WTC Families for a Proper Burial.
The attempt by Park51 to win the grant comes as more and more questions are being raised about the financial practices of the group and how it will go about getting the $100 million required for their project. The developers are not ruling out taking money from Saudi Arabia and Iran and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has a lengthy list of extremist associations and statements, including support for the destruction of Israel.
The developer, Sharif el-Gamal, has a criminal record that includes a 2005 arrest for assault. His wealth has come under scrutiny as he was a waiter until 2002 when he quit and formed his own real estate company the following year. He quickly accumulated the millions necessary to buy lots of property, including the old Burlington Coat Factory building slated to become the site of Park51. One former associate said, “I’m sure he didn’t buy it with his own money” and another “long-time associate” called him a “master manipulator.” Now, Sharif el-Gamal is being sued by Citibank for nearly $100,000 in overdue loans. This follows an eviction from the owner of the offices he rented for $39,000 in unpaid rent. This is the man that NBC has proclaimed “Person of the Year.”
Past financial irregularities with Imam Rauf’s organizations are further cause for concern. In 1997, Rauf formed the American Sufi Muslim Association, later renamed the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), alongside Faiz Khan, a prayer leader at Rauf’s mosque until at least December 2009. Khan is involved with organizations promoting 9⁄11 conspiracy theories, though he claims he never discussed his thoughts on the attacks with Rauf.
Khan says that elements of the U.S. government worked with “the state of Israel, its criminal establishment, its secret service and its use and marriage with false flag operations” to carry out the 9⁄11 attacks. He also says a “sleazy mob, if you will, in the White House that co-ops Washington, D.C. and actualizes the agendas of Wall Street” was involved.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism has found that ASMA told the government that it held Islamic religious services in a 17-floor apartment building in New York City attended by 500 people. However, there is no single room large enough to accommodate such an audience. Cordoba House, the original name of Park51, has not declared $100,000 in donations from ASMA and another one of Rauf’s organizations. This is significant because ASMA’s non-profit status as a church exempts them from being required to name their donors.
One of the major donors to Cordoba is Hisham Elzanaty, who also gave $6,000 to the Holy Land Foundation in 1999. The charity was later shut down for being set up by the Muslim Brotherhood as a front for the Hamas terrorist group, which Rauf hesitated for a long time to condemn. Elzanaty says that he thought the money was going to an orphanage and was unaware of the Hamas connections, which is very possible even though suspicion over them had long been reported.
In audiotape from 2006, Rauf is heard telling the person on the other line that he called on former U.S. Secretary of State Albright to engage Hamas and support an “Islamic State” since it is no different than supporting the Jewish state of Israel. He says he “[doesn’t] want a demographic Islamic State,” as he believes everyone should live together instead of separately. For good reason, Rauf repeatedly checks to make sure he is not on air and that the person he is talking to understands the conversation is off the record.
Martin Mawyer, President of the Christian Action Network and producer of the documentary, Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mosque, told FrontPage that Park51’s application for the grant shows that there is inadequate local Muslim support for the $100 million project.
“What church needs to reach out for ‘overseas’ funding or government grants to build a house of worship? Churches are supposed to be built by the faithful who have a vision, a heart and a genuine need for a place of worship,” he said.
The application for the federal grant is a hypocritical move for an organization that claims it is trying to improve interfaith relations. The Park51 project may have faded from the media limelight for the time being, but its opponents must not be complacent. We may not be able to stop the approval of the construction, but we can fight so we’re not forced to pay for it out of our pockets.
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