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A Mosque Grows Near Brooklyn

The dubious financing of ‘Cordoba House’ deserves scrutiny.

Jul 26, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 42 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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While U.S. sanctions on the Alavi Foundation, announced in 2009, received little notice, the government’s charges are disturbing. They include control of Alavi by the Tehran dictatorship through its diplomats at the United Nations, and transfer of income from the office building at 650 Fifth Avenue to Bank Melli, the Iranian national financial institution. Bank Melli had been designated a “Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferator” by the U.S. Treasury Department. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey noted, “The international community has recognized the proliferation risks posed by Iran’s Bank Melli.” In late 2009, the Alavi Foundation’s last head, Farshid Jahedi, pled guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice for destroying documents about the Alavi-Melli relationship that had been subpoenaed in the investigation, which continues. Jahedi was sentenced on April 29 to three months’ imprisonment, six months’ supervised release, and a $3,000 fine.

Hossein Mahallati was the subject of an unsuccessful federal inquiry in 1992 regarding an alleged conspiracy to export biological warfare materials to Iran. His predecessor as Alavi director, Manoucher Shafie, who managed the foundation’s transition from serving the shah’s government to that of Ayatollah Khomeini, was charged with conspiring to export prohibited U.S. technology to Iran. Neither was prosecuted.

Hossein Mahallati remains an enthusiastic supporter of Rauf’s Ground Zero enterprise, especially since an Egyptian property developer, Sharif El-Gamal, who appears to be the real leader of the effort, using Rauf as his public face, put up $4.85 million in cash to purchase the location. El-Gamal is chief executive officer of Soho Properties, Inc., a commercial real estate investment firm he founded in 2003. His partner is Nour Mousa, another guiding figure in the Ground Zero mosque effort and the nephew of Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League. Amr Moussa was the first major Arab leader to go to Gaza and affirm support for Hamas, in mid-June, after the recent blockade-running assault. 

El-Gamal has kept a low profile in the dispute over the appearance of an Islamic institution near Ground Zero, although last week he appeared before a hearing of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to announce that Cordoba House will now be known as Park51. He and Rauf have both taken to downplaying the religious character of the proposal, preferring that the building be called a “community center.”

So far, then, the Ground Zero Islamic facility rests on a support network linked to the anti-Jewish Mahathir and the Perdana-supported Gaza raiders, some notable servants of the Iranian clerical dictatorship, and an Egyptian property developer associated with the pro-Hamas chief of the Arab League.

But the questionable aspects of the Ground Zero Islamic project do not end there. Feisal Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, executive director of ASMA, has been one of the most assiduous promoters of the lower Manhattan mega-mosque. She spoke on July 6 to the Chautauqua Institution, celebrating the double heritage she claims: “The first, the American faith-based social activism, a legacy that included the abolitionists, women’s suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement. Second, I have inherited the tradition of my faith, a faith that has inspired positive social change for over 1,400 years.” 

Rauf’s wife failed to mention another feature of her background: She is the niece of Dr. Farooq Khan, formerly a leader of the Westbury Mosque on Long Island, which is a center for Islamic radicals and links on its website to the paramilitary Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the front on American soil for the Pakistani jihadist Jamaat e-Islami.

Lazio and King are right, and Cuomo and Bloomberg are wrong. Aside from the matter of sensitivity to the families of the 9/11 victims and other Manhattanites who live near Ground Zero, if the friends and fans of Feisal Abdul Rauf believe his mosque plan is entirely above board, they should be the first to encourage full public disclosure of its backing and finances.

Stephen Schwartz, a frequent contributor, is the author of The Two Faces of Islam.


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