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The person behind the building of a controversial mosque on a residential street said he is surprised by recent racist remarks made against his faith.
“We are not too familiar with racist actions in Brooklyn,” said Allowey Ahmed, 60, who owns the property at 2812 Voorhies Avenue off East 29th Street and is spearheading the project.
“We’ve always thought this was a harmonious neighborhood and we never suffered here. The beautiful thing about America is we are all under the same umbrella of freedom,” he added.
Ahmed, a Muslim immigrant from Yemen who has been living in Brooklyn for over 40 years, was responding to comments made at a recent Plumb Beach Civic Association (PBCA) meeting in which about six people who attended complained that they didn’t want to live next to a mosque.
The proposed four-story mosque will include a community center and classrooms for the growing Muslim population in Sheepshead Bay.
The City’s Department of Buildings has already rejected one set of plans from Ahmed, but he said he is resubmitting plans and can build as of right.
Ahmed also said he plans on meeting with the neighbors.
“We will meet with the community in time. We’re really disappointed they are agitated. We enjoy so much freedom and life here and want to melt in like everyone else,” he said, adding that local American-Muslims don’t want a few extremists to represent them.
The complaints at the PBCA meeting ranged from residents fearing their property values would go down to their fears of having their children around the mosque, according to Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo, who attended the meeting.
Their complaints sounded “racist” and no one sided with them because of it, said Scavo.
“We’ve got mosques on Coney Island Avenue and East 18th Street and we have never had a problem with either one of them,” she added.
Scavo says that if critics where opposing the proposed mosque on the grounds that it would bring noise, congestion, she would go along with them - but not simply because they don’t like the mosque.
“It’s totally inappropriate,” Scavo said. “It would be the same as saying there is a new church going up and I don’t like it.”
Local residents have also engaged inletter writing campaigns to local elected officials noting the block is filled with two-story houses and the proposed Mosque is set for four stories with a full basement.
They also expressed security concerns, citing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and recent arrests and investigations of mosques around the country regarding terrorist activity.
City Council member Lew Fidler, who represents the block in question said there are legitimate concerns about building a structure of this type of type and size at this location, which is a completely residential block.
“We continue to check that they comply with the law. However, to make a decision that because this is a mosque and for no other reason that this will be a haven for hate or terror is over the top,” said Fidler.
“People need to know the fact that every government agency is aware of the project and they will be made, like everybody else, to comply with the law,” he added.
—with Joe Maniscalco
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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