At their June 27 rally, Bay People made their case against zoning issues. But attendees had a different message.

In a pair of Brooklyn Paper Op-Eds opponents to the Sheepshead Bay mosque reassert their criticism of zoning issues, while advocates fight for their right to religious freedom.

But the bigots, with their sensational quotes, still provide the focus for the mainstream media’s reports, and no legitimate conversation can emerge until they’ve been addressed.

“The Muslims have been a part and parcel of various New York communities — including the one in Sheepshead Bay — for a very long time,” writes Ibrahim Anse, the architect for the proposed mosque, in the Brooklyn Paper Op-Ed.

Anse defends the right of local Muslims to build a religious institution, pointing out that this is to serve residents and business owners – not some imagined outside constituency. He also discusses the community’s affiliation with the Muslim American Society, the target of many opponents who say the organization has ties to terrorism:

The Muslim American Society of New York, as an organization, has been around for over a decade, working with local elected officials, interfaith groups and other organizations and agencies. The Muslim American Society worked for more than a decade in the city to make a positive change in the lives of families and youth. It is an incorporated, not-for-profit organization which promotes youth development, charitable work, community service, and that is why Sheepshead Bay decided to affiliate with such an organization.

From the Muslim American Society Youth Center in Bensonhurst, to the mosques in Astoria and the Bronx, to a full-time school in Yonkers, we have been active participants in our communities. The Muslim American Society — along with the other Muslim organizations — raised funds for the Katrina disaster victims, and contributed, on the national level, $1 million for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. The society supports its projects through charitable donations from the local Muslims. Muslims in Sheepshead Bay will be part of those productive actions for the good of the community.

On the other side, Bay People member Alex Tenenbaum explains his personal opposition to any large community center on a residential street. He opposes the construction based on parking, traffic and noise concerns.

This is my home we are talking about! Can you honestly say that you wouldn’t oppose this particular construction? I beg every reader to imagine themselves in my position and please answer the following question: “What would you do?” Please, be honest with yourselves!

But Tenenbaum also seems taken aback by the accusations that he’s a bigot, a label fueled by a slew of media reports that found the crowd at anti-mosque gatherings spewing hateful remarks. Bigotry, he asserts, isn’t at the heart of his opposition:

Proponents of the mosque are trying to convince everyone that our concerns are ungrounded. Moreover, anyone opposing the project is called an “Islamophobe.” That characterization is unfair and very painful. I would oppose any type of large building, synagogue, church, mosque, or any other non-religious structure that would threaten to destroy my family’s right to quietly use and enjoy our property.

We will protect our rights and we will make sure our American dreams and our quality of life are not sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.

Tenenbaum was one of the first people Sheepshead Bites spoke to about the mosque, way back before the story had surfaced. We can vouch that his opposition has remained consistently against zoning issues. Anse, too, has been a helpful source in shaping our stories.

But, as we’ve written before, there are more than two sides to this story. Too many people oppose the mosque for the wrong reason. These Op-Eds show a rational conversation, but as we, and many other reporters found, there is an overwhelming sense of bigotry and hatred emanating from the opposition. And the damage caused by those hatemongers has not only undermined Bay People and those who oppose it for zoning issues, but it has branded the entire neighborhood as racist and unwelcoming.

Just as marking all Muslims as terrorists is wrong, labeling all those who oppose the mosque as “Islamophobes” is equally wrong. Tenenbaum does not strike me as a hateful person. He is no Islamophobe.

But that villainous and vocal segment, filled of hate and ignorance, do need to be rooted out of the debate, and they need to be told in no uncertain terms that they’re wrong.

Until then, the legitimate arguments against the mosque will fall on deaf ears, and those for the mosque will focus on battling prejudice. That’s a poor playing field for finding a compromise befitting our great and welcoming community.

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  • Bugg

    Mr. Tennebaum's concerns seem very sensible. Had he bought his home with a mosque already there, then he knows that going in.Instead he now faces a choice of either living in an awful situation, or selling his home at a loss.In essence this mosque is going to destroy the value of all the homes of the Tennebaums and their neighbors. Their biggest asset is about to be devalued and instead you wish to pretend it's all about bigotry.

    our erstwhile Mr. Berke continues to throw around words like bigotry and hatred. Crazy idea; do some actual reporting. Who paid for the land? Who will pay to construct the mosque? What's the source of the funding? Will they purchase any
    adjoining land to build a parking lot, or do Mr. Tennebaum and his neighbors have a future filled with doubleparked cars?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Ned is bending over backwards to be balanced. Personally, I think he's wasting his time.

  • http://www.flickr.com/knightmare6 Knightmare6

    Get a reality check! The article is written fairly, and no where does the author throw around bigotry and hatred. You're seeing what isn't there, which shows how much it's in your head. The author, Ned Berke, is pointing out how a few bad apples are tainting any official stance the opposition could have by being the loudest and voicing their own fears. Whether valid or not, you're doing everything that's wrong and against the book to try to fight people abiding by the laws of the book, in this case the Constitution and the City of New York's building codes. Instead of going on and on about how they are terrorists, you should be assisting those with valid concerns about parking by finding factual statistics of traffic, noise and miscellanious impacts to neighborhoods and communities, those which would have resonance to all community-dwellers.

  • http://www.nedberke.com Ned Berke

    “Our erstwhile Mr. Berke”

    erstwhile [ˈɜːstˌwaɪl] adj. – former; one-time

    What are you trying to say, Buggsy? We ain't friends anymore?

    I've done plenty of reporting on this issue, and the misinformation surrounding it is at preposterous levels. There were many accusations about land grabs, financial sources, and more that the documentation and info from those involved did not support, so to even begin reporting it would muddle an already muddled issue.

    Instead, I reported the things I did find. I did find racism and bigotry, but I also found people who were genuine in their concerns. I've been pushing for a differentiation so that – hopefully (and perhaps naively) – the sensible people on both sides can come together and find common ground and common solutions. But anyone who denies that there is bigotry in this whole mess is simply ignoring one problem and fomenting another.

    • JOAN

      YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE THROWING UP, YOUR SO BIASED,

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Are you someone else now? Apparently you're not Mr. Burke today,

    Shoot, I missed that before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Tenenbaum/1170468074 Alex Tenenbaum

    Hi guys. Just a quick note. First of all, I didn't come up with the headline. I sent a couple of emails to the editor at Bay News pointing out that I never said “The mosque will destroy our community”. She refused to change the headline for the web edition, saying that since it is not in quotes, people wouldn't attribute it to me…
    I had no word “Muslim” anywhere in my piece. It was inserted by Bay News.
    There were a few other changes that I didn't agree to.
    Anyone saying that my concerns are ungrounded is welcome to drop by to look around/talk.
    Ned says: “But the bigots, with their sensational quotes, still provide the focus for the mainstream media’s reports, and no legitimate conversation can emerge until they’ve been addressed.” Please understand that every news organization had 20 legit quotes for every idiotic one. Unfortunately they prefer to go with the “controversial”. I even asked one of the reporters about it. According to him, it is up to his editors to insert/delete quotes, and 9 out of 10 times they will go with inflammatory vs. boring.
    Can I be responsible for every village idiot? News media goes with “hate and ignorance” and my “legitimate arguments” are being ignored. Another Catch 22?
    I don't think Ned is “bending over backwards” here. If anything, he had chances to show vulgar/aggressive proponents of the community center but decided not to.
    I know he is trying to be balanced, therefore I assume there must be some idiotic comments on both sides he is keeping for his personal collection.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Why do you assume that proponents of the center are making aggressive or offensive statements?

    Why should they? They're under accusation of being terrorists. They're not going to make matters worse by antagonizing the situation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Tenenbaum/1170468074 Alex Tenenbaum

    Not assumed, witnessed.

  • brooklynq

    Where are the comments from the religious who are actually going to be running the mosque? Wouldn't he be able to put some perspective on this?

  • Bugg

    Again, Ned, some simple reporting is in order, some simple questiosn need to be asked.

    Who paid for the land? Who will pay to construct the mosque? What's the source of the funding? Will they purchase any adjoining land to build a parking lot, or do Mr. Tennebaum and his neighbors have a future filled with doubleparked cars? Having lived down the block from a Mill Basin temple, the bread&butter concerns of Mr. Tennebaum and his neighbors seem to be taking a backseat to PC diversity uber alles multi culti nonsense. Is someone going to look behind the curtain and tell us why and how this is happening?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    And the context in which this occurred?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Tenenbaum/1170468074 Alex Tenenbaum

    There were news organizations there for sure but not one decided to include this in their reporting…

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    But what was the context of such eruptions?

  • Abu Aymen. Anse

    Hi all,
    I think it is fair to say that the community is in a good shape, after all of that.
    The mosque builders have a right, and the opposition is also has right, partially, people with hate concerns, and comments are excluded.

    We, as the Mosque Supporters, are recognizing any concerns that have nothing to do with isolating us or discriminating our existence as citizens. These cancers are, initially, ours as well as others'. We are openly talking about these concerns and will do our best to address them now and in the future.
    Foy your information, we did extended our hands to our neighbors with Ms. Teresa (the Chairperson of Community Board 15 in Brooklyn) , attendance on the day of the Peace Walk, But sadly no one from he oppositions welcomed us to solve the problems. Our one choice is to go ahead and get the right that we deserve as long as we comply with all codes and laws.

    I would like to say that we are not here to “focus on battling prejudice” as per Mr. Ned. We are here because we fall love in this community as residents and love its people. Yes there are some hate going on from SOME of its people, but the good people exist and that is the side that we, and everyone, can live with.

    TO MR. Alex Thanks for addressing the point of the Headline of your respected opinion.
    and simply the media like these ind of words anyway… LOL

  • Marachi

    How can unemployed individual pay for property $800,000. Where did the money come from and why was he not paying taxes on that amount? How can anyone just take out $800,000 in CASH and just pay to elderly couple for their house. People usually go to jail for these type of transactions.

  • Cabbie

    Very succinct Ned!

    That's it in a nutshell. I hope ALL sides will read and “get” this.

  • Guest

    All your reporting is one sided and it’s all about bigotry, which is not true. BTW, when I walk my dog Muslim kids are trying to hit my dog. Also, my friends dog was hit couple of times in the stomach just because “They hate dogs” The mother was just standing on the side. So if they don’t believe in having animals so no one around them should as well? Why don’t you report what negativity and disrespect toward Americans and people in general Muslims have.

  • Bugg

    Exactly. And for all the smooth happytalk of Abu above, those questiosn don't asked nor answered. A whole block of Brooklyn homeowners are about to watch the value of their homes, their nest eggs, drop through the floor in the worst real estate market in memory. And if they're stuck living there when the mosque opens, parking will be impossible, and forget having a quiet afternoon. And no one here or elsewhere asks where the $800K materialized from, who will pay for the contruction and why has adequate street parking under current conditions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Tenenbaum/1170468074 Alex Tenenbaum

    I don't want to go into details. Every stupid comment has a background. Context is not an excuse for hateful language, cursing and aggressive gestures. Hate requires no situation to come out. Just like being drunk can't make one a racist…

  • Guest

    I am sure NYS Tax, IRS and Dept of Homeland Security would like to know as well.

  • aBU

    GREAT,
    books ARE WIDLY OPEN FOR THEM,,,

    I LIKE THAT THINKING…
    THESE ARE THE POEPLE WHO SUPPOSED TO KNOW,,,, YOU ARE 100% CORRECT.

    NOT ME OR ANYONE FROM THE STREET… LOL

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Context is everything. If such remarks were made after repeated Anti-Muslim remarks were made they would have a much different affect than if they were made without any provocation.

  • bagels

    Do you have any empathy whatsoever for the homeowners that will have to live in close proximity to a four story cultural center?

  • Marachi

    Alex,
    I believe you really need to look into TAX FRAUD of whoever purchased the property. You need to contact IRS and get legal backups of where the money came and if in fact he did pay taxes prior and during the purchase. Thieves should not get a free ride just because they want to open religious organization because when they do open it they will not have to pay taxes on any property at all. ANY RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION. Pure write-off!!! Also, he was UNEMPLOYED! Was he getting unemployment additional to all this money?
    Good luck Alex and to everyone who fight for their freedom to live in peace.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    I live very close to a number of informal and unaffiliated houses of worship. All of these people have a right to practice their religion, I have no problem with that. No one should have a problem with this one either unless they talk themselves into having one.

  • bagels

    Define “very close”.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Less than 200 feet usually. And occasionally, less than 25 feet. The house next to my next door neighbor has been used for some religious event which lasted for 5 days. Double parked cars and lots of noise. Have no idea what it was because I do not read Hebrew. But that is not my concern. Religious expression is a right.

  • JOAN

    I WOULD LOVE TO MEET UP WITH YOU FACE TO FACE, ARE YOU FOR IT?

  • Guest

    From what I know, Jewish holidays don't pray from 5 am and screaming prayers so 3 blocks could hear.