As Americans living in a peaceful, diverse community for over a decade, the Muslims of Sheepshead Bay need — just like people of other denominations in the area — to build a house of worship. And as residents and business owners in the community, we did not anticipate the uproar and the hurtful rhetoric.
The site is planned to be a Muslim community facility that will serve the Muslims residing in the neighborhood. It is in compliance with the codes and the zoning laws of the city. The building will include a prayer hall, a library and classrooms. It will bridge the gap that has been created between Muslims and non-Muslims in the past nine years. The activities include youth and community service programs, after-school tutoring, and English as a Second Language classes, which will be open for everyone.
We acknowledge that there are some legitimate concerns. We will continue to comply with laws and regulations in order to avoid, minimize or eliminate any traffic and transportation issues that might come up as a result of the project. However, we will continue working towards building a house of worship, and affirming our rights.
The Muslims have been a part and parcel of various New York communities — including the one in Sheepshead Bay — for a very long time. 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.
As residents and business owners in Sheepshead Bay, we are committed to positive contributions in the community and neighborhood. This first project will bring the community together. We are certain that the rhetoric of hate, racism and bigotry have no place among the good people of Sheepshead Bay and the city.
Ibrahim Anse is the architect of the proposed mosque.