Nov 22 2010
The Sharia Law promoters behind the proposed triumphal mosque and community center have applied for $5 million in federal grant blood money set aside for redeveloping downtown Manhattan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
THE DAILY BEAST– The audacious move stands to reignite the embers of a divisive debate that dominated headlines surrounding the ninth anniversary of the attacks this fall, say people vested in the issue.
The application was submitted under a “community and cultural enhancement” grant program administered by the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation (LMDC), which oversaw the $20 billion in federal aid allocated in the wake of 9/11 and is currently doling out millions in remaining taxpayer funds for community development. The redevelopment board declined to comment on the application, citing the still ongoing and confidential process of determining the grant winners.
Ground Zero Mosque developers clearly had a legal right to apply for the grant. A list of Frequently Asked Questions that accompanied the application specifically states that religious organizations can make funding requests for capital projects “as long as the request is for a facility or portion of a facility that is dedicated to non-religious activities or uses.”
But the question on whether they could have is trumped by the question of whether they should have. The stated aim of the mosque’s developers is to provide a community center for lower Manhattan’s 4,000 Muslim residents. Their own website explained that they understood the need to “appeal to the undecided, and change the conversation about Muslims in America.” It’s pretty clear that this play for federal dollars will generate none of that, starting with the lack of disclosure or community consultation before developers submitted their application, which was due November 5th.
“If Imam Feisal and his retinue want know why they’re not trusted, here’s yet another reason,” says Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam and Director of the Moral Courage Project at NYU, when I asked her about the grant proposal. “The New Yorkers I speak with have questions about the mosque. Requesting money from public coffers without engaging the public shows a staggering lack of empathy—especially from a man who says he’s all about dialogue.”
As a witness to the 9/11 attacks and someone who currently lives in the revived neighborhood, I can tell you that anger over the Victory mosque project was more intense outside the community than within it.
After all, the local community board approved the mosuqe development in two separate votes—and the right of the project to proceed was honorably affirmed by Mayor (Muslim Asskisser’)Bloomberg against a torrent of criticism this fall.
Reasonable people who recognize the Islamic community center’s right to develop on private property, however, will object to their use of public funds to do so.
Part of the strangeness of the application is that it blows past the suggested range of $100,000 to $1 million that these grants are supposed to fall to within (I’m told the entire pool for this round of cultural
funding will come in under $20 million). According to the two sources knowledgeable about the thinking behind the proposal, the strategy behind the $5 million ballpark was trying to yield a higher figure in the end.
But the project likely doesn’t quality for a grant in the first place. Specifically, the grant criteria mandate a demonstration of a project’s financial feasibility, based on benchmarks set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The government will help complete development projects—but it does not provide seed capital. And in their last public financial statement, the project was found to have less than $20,000 in the bank for a project with a slated cost of $100 million.
It will be interesting to see how the LMDC deals with the appropriateness of this application, especially given its stated commitment to “an open, inclusive, and transparent planning process in which the public has a central role in shaping the future of Lower Manhattan.” After all, among its advisory councils are representatives of the victim’s families, who are unlikely to be sympathetic to the subject.
In the end, the application is likely to be unsuccessful financially while mobilizing a new round of opposition. It’s a lose-lose proposition put forward by a tone-deaf organization that seems determined to alienate allies and embolden opponents. (Not to worry, Dhimmi Bloomberg will push it through. After all, he has big business deals in the Middle East dependent upon the success of this travesty)