Mosque construction in February. (Photo by nolastname.)
The ongoing issue of the proposed mosque and Islamic community center slated to be built in Sheepshead Bay has the community divided and the local politicians spinning the story from all angles.
Most recently, we covered a backpack giveaway that occurred at at 2812 Voorhies Avenue, at the mosque’s construction site. The giveaway was sponsored by the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and it received no less debate than the proposed mosque itself. In fact, there was a small protest at the site on the day of the giveaway event.
The New York Times ran a piece that tied the backpack giveaway to the larger issue of the split opinions related to the construction project.
The Times writes:
The mosque’s backers say 150 to 200 Muslim families who live within walking distance are in need of a local place to pray. The mosque, they want to reassure neighbors, will be an asset, providing afterschool activities to children, a Boy Scout troop open to all and charity events, like the school supply giveaway.
Those against the mosque cite parking and traffic concerns mainly.
“We understand that this is the First Amendment, that everyone has a right to pray, but what about our rights as a residents?” said Victor Benari, 58, one of the two protesters on hand last month. “It’s provocation, 100 percent. Why here? Why not build on a nice big commercial street?”
There are, however, others who believe that it will divide the neighborhood.
“Yes, they are smiling, but you know what’s behind their smiles?” said Leonid Krupnik to the Times. He was one of the two protesters at the giveaway. “Hatred. They want to create a caliphate. They want to push people out of this neighborhood.”
Krupnik belongs to a local group who calls themselves the Bay People. The group’s efforts center on blocking the mosque from being erected. However, due to laws which make it very difficult to oppose a house of worship, the best they can do is delay the project.
The Times writes, “Mr. Krupnik and other opponents say they are being unfairly typecast as xenophobes and racists. They do nevertheless worry that the neighborhood will change so much that non-Muslims will want to leave and they fear that the mosque will be used to promote radical thinking.”
It does seem, however, that opposition is loosening. Whereas last year, the police were called to the backpack giveaway to keep order, this year only the two protestors came. For the backers of the project, this is good news.