A few months ago I was leaving Penn Station in New York City when I heard someone calling my name. It was Sharif El-Gamal, the developer of the Ground Zero Mosque. He started out by asking me incredulously if I really believed in what I was doing, which shows that he has uncritically accepted as fact his side’s smear propaganda. But we had a wide-ranging and illuminating discussion, in which he repeatedly insisted that the 9/11 hijackers were “criminals,” not Muslims, brushing aside my pointing out how they had cited Qur’an and Sunnah to explain and justify their actions. He seemed willfully ignorant or determinedly uninformed about the grim reality of jihad violence. He implored me to have a private discussion with an unnamed imam about Islam, apparently so that this imam could clear up my “misunderstandings” of the religion, and as I am always happy to discuss, debate, and defend my positions, I readily agreed and gave him my email address, but never heard from him.
Anyway, above all, El-Gamal reiterated happily that he was still determined to build the Ground Zero mega-mosque that was the center of so much controversy a few years ago. In the worst insult of all, they had planned to break ground on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the jihad attack. Pamela Geller and I stopped that mosque from being built with a series of rallies at Ground Zero, the largest of which, on September 11, 2010, drew tens of thousands of people. Polls showed that 70% of Americans opposed a victory mosque at Ground Zero, and El-Gamal had a falling-out with the unctuous and sinister Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, who had been the public face of the project.
Eventually, like Nixon in Vietnam, El-Gamal and the mainstream media declared victory and got out, opening a “Community Center” in the Burlington Coat Factory building that had been extensively damaged at Ground Zero in the 9/11 attack. Media lapdogs contacted Pamela Geller and me asking us how we felt about having lost, now that the “Park51 Community Center” was open. But this was a pathetic face-saving move on their part: what we were protesting was not the existence of a mosque or Muslim prayers in the Burlington Coat Factory building, but the erection of a huge triumphal mosque on the site, after the pattern of victory mosques at the site of jihad triumphs all over the Islamic world. And that mosque was not built. But Sharif El-Gamal is moving ahead to build it now. He hasn’t given up, and neither have we.
Pamela Geller reminds us: “The man defaulted on not one, but two bank loans. He failed to pay rent to Con Ed, part owner of one of the buildings. They sued him and won. And Gamal failed to pay the taxes owed on the building. On top of all this, he was evicted from his Soho Properties offices for failure to pay rent.” So where, indeed, is he getting the money? What forces are behind this push to build a monumental insult to the Americans who were murdered at Ground Zero on 9/11?
Developer Sharif El-Gamal has filed plans to level two low-rise structures at the site of the long-stalled Park51 development, also known as the “Ground Zero mosque.”
The developer and his firm, Soho Properties, courted controversy in 2010 after proposing a 15-story Islamic cultural center in place of the five-story 45 Park Place and four-story 51 Park Place. Located in the Financial District, the properties are situated two blocks from the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.
The plans to demolish the buildings were filed with the Department of Buildings today, the New York Observer reported.
The buildings already house a nonprofit Islamic community and prayer center, and El-Gamal charges $30,000 in rent for the space. Last year brokers told The Real Deal that the developer had been inquiring about how to price units should he choose to build condominiums at the site.
Previous plans called for a mixed-use development with residences on upper floors and a prayer space on lower floors, as previously reported. A spokesman for the firm said specific plans for the site would be announced at a later date. [NYO] – Angela Hunt