BROOKLYN, N.Y. - The proposed mosque at Ground Zero has sparked a heated national debate in recent months. But just a few miles away in Brooklyn, another mega-mosque controversy is brewing.
Sheepshead Bay is "old school" New York. It's the kind of place where generations of Italians, Irish, Russians and Jews have settled, drawn by the quiet charm and waterfront view of the working class, south Brooklyn neighborhood.
Voorhies Avenue -- with its tidy, well-kept row houses-- is typical of Sheepshead Bay, except for one major difference: a gaping hole where a very expensive mosque is planned to be built.
Many of the residents of Voorhies Avenue were born and raised on the block. They brought up their families and planned to retire there.
But now they say that's all up in the air, thanks to the proposed mosque construction, smack dab in the middle of their residential street.
The Bay People
"We're basically fighting for our quality of life. People invested in their houses, in their life here," resident Victor Benari told CBN News.
Benari is a member of Bay People Inc., a local group opposed to the building of the three-story mosque on tiny Voorhies Avenue.
"Why in this nice neighborhood?" he asked. "Why not in a commercial district?"
The Bay People have expressed their concerns in several peaceful protests, only to be labeled as racists and "Islamophobes" by Muslim and left wing proponents.
"They'll have the microphone and they'll mock us, curse us," Bay People Inc. member Patty Fatone said. "They'll condemn us for what we're saying."
Freedom or Intrusion?
CBN News recently spoke with members of the Bay People. They say their opposition is not based on religion, and that the mosque would cause traffic, parking and noise issues, including the Islamic call to prayer five times a day.
"So a church or synagogue you would also oppose because of the potential quality of life issues?" CBN News asked.
"Yes," they all agreed.
"Not in this place," member David Meylakh said.
"If there was a library here, we'd be against it," member Bob G. added.
The Bay People wonder why a large mosque is planned for a residential street where no Muslim families reside. In fact, they say the small Muslim community in Sheepshead Bay is located several blocks away from the mosque site.
"We welcome the Muslim families to build a house and to be a good neighbor," Benari said. "But we will not welcome this facility in the wrong place and backed up with the wrong organization behind it."
That organization would be the Muslim American Society, or MAS. The group's leaders admit the organization was created by members of the radical Muslim Brotherhood -- a jihadist movement founded in Egypt that seeks to establish Islamic Sharia law worldwide.
MAS officials now attempt to distance themselves from the Brotherhood, at least publicly. But a 2004 exposé by The Chicago Tribune revealed that,
"In recent years, the U.S. Brotherhood operated under the name Muslim American Society. It was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members. Then, the group's leaders decided that Brotherhood members would call themselves the Muslim American Society, or MAS."
Revelations like that have the Bay People worried about what their new neighbors might teach behind closed doors.
So do Muslim Brotherhood documents uncovered by the FBI that identify Islamic centers as "the axis" of the Brotherhood's operations in America, where "batallions" are supplied for the movement.
"How do you deal with people who embrace enemies of the United States? I cannot -- I don't think that anybody can," Bob G. said.
Sharia in America
In addition to the mosque in Sheepshead Bay, MAS recently attempted to purchase property in nearby Staten Island. Their bid was rejected after a huge public outcry.
The group did succeed, however, in opening a massive mosque outside Boston in 2009 that boasted a price tag of more than $15 million.
The Sheepshead Bay and Boston mosques follow a nationwide trend. In 2001, there were 1,200 mosques in the United States. In the past 10 years, that number has nearly doubled to more than 2,000 mosques.
One recent study published by the Middle East Quarterly journal found that 81 percent of those U.S. mosques feature Islamic literature that advocates violence.
The Bay People say New York City officials ignore all of their concerns about this and other issues.
"You take out your mortgage, you work your two jobs, you try to raise your family. And then someone comes along that, they don't want to answer you," Fatone said.
"You're just told, 'Well, you have to deal with this now. It's a house of worship,'" Fatone continued. "All the consideration is given to them. No one's met with us to hear our needs, hear our concerns."
Shady Mosque Funding?
The double lot that would house the MAS mosque went for a whopping $800,000, and construction on the facility will likely cost at least another million.
Although the property owner, a Yemeni immigrant named Ahmed Allowey, has said the funds are all locally raised, the Bay People have their doubts.
They note that Saudi Arabia has financed countless mosques across the U.S. and Europe.
"The owner -- we never hear from him," Fatone said. "He'll come to the rallies and he'll hide behind children. He'll stand behind people. But you never see him at the front of the barricade."
Allowey and MAS leaders in Brooklyn did not respond to CBN News' repeated requests for comment. Their Voorhies Avenue property already faces some $30,000 in fines for building violations.
A Mosque in Your Backyard
The Bay People say their best chance to stop the mosque would be to convince the city of New York to change zoning laws that they believe are outdated.
They warn their fight has ramifications far beyond Brooklyn.
"If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere," Bob G. told CBN News. "Believe me, it's coming to your neighborhood next."
--Published June 30, 2011.