Last year Pamela Geller's "Stop Islamization of America" attempted to prevent construction of Park 51, the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero by placing hateful ads on New York City buses. She has now brought her campaign of hate to Brooklyn, where she is attempting to stop construction of a mosque in the southern Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay (h/t to Colin over at The Brooklyn Politics).
The local opponents of the mosque attempt to dress their opposition in neutral language, such as concern regarding traffic and noise. Responding to those concerns, the mosque's developer indicated that the call to prayer would not be broadcast outside in deference to the community and that most congregants would arrive via foot, thus mitigating concerns regarding traffic. However, Geller and her national organization make no attempt at maintaining such a polite fiction.
According to the report from WNYC:
About 120 demonstrators gathered in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, to protest a proposed mosque that opponents argue will dramatically alter the quality of life in the neighborhood. The protest, organized by about 80 supporters of the mosque, was within shouting distance of a counter-protest and drew locals and nationally prominent critics of Islam.
Geller's blog Atlas Shrugs quotes her as saying:
Hundreds of good and decent Americans took to the streets in Brooklyn today to oppose the building of a mega-mosque on a quiet residential tree-lined street in Sheepshead Bay today. The massive structure will cripple traffic on the street and change the quiet and safety of Voorhies Avenue.
Why there? (emphasis in original)
There are no businesses or synagogues or churches on this residential street. There is no parking for this rabat (beachhead), and no additional parking has been allocated. It will be bedlam. Which of course is the point -- Islamic supremacists are here and we are taking your block.
This seemingly comes from her speech at the protest. It is a right-wing blog, so please be prepared if heading over there to read it. Also, there are many pictures of the protest at her site, so be prepared for it to take some time to load if heading over there.
I happen to live about 10-15 minutes away from the proposed location of the mosque, so there are a few things that I'd like to note about the area:
- The proposed mosque is on Voorhies Avenue between East 28th Street and East 29th Street.
- A block and a half away at the corner of Voorhies Avenue and Nostrand Avenue (roughly East 30th Street) there is a public school. When I played little league for two seasons twenty years ago we trained in that public school before beginning our season.
- Eight blocks or so in the other direction, at Voorhies Avenue and Ocean Avenue, (roughly East 20th Street) there's a church on one side and across the street there's a shopping center that includes a large supermarket, a bank, and several other stores.
- In the five blocks between Ocean Avenue and Bedford Avenue (roughly East 25th Street), Voorhies Avenue is dotted by small stores with apartments above those stores.
Yes, Voorhies Avenue is residential there, however it's not exactly how Geller describes, which is does not come as any surprise. In fact, if you walk just a bit up Ocean Avenue (one avenue block - blocks running between avenues in Brooklyn are about three times as long as those running between streets), there is another church and there is also a synagogue along Ocean Avenue. These are all areas within easy walking distance of each other.
Now getting to the other part of Geller's remarks. She referred to this mosque as a "mega mosque". This is the same language she used against Park51, the proposed community center in Lower Manhattan. I would hardly call a house of worship for 150 families a mega anything. It is simply a neighborhood house of worship. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Geller asks "Why there?" First, this rhetorical question exposes her hypocrisy, because the rallying cry for those opposing Park51 was "Anywhere but there," due to its proximity to Ground Zero. The site of the proposed mosque in Sheepshead Bay is about a 35-minute train ride followed by a 10-15 minute walk from Ground Zero. In terms of mileage, it's about 9.5 miles, according to Google Maps. Second, to actually answer that question, I would assume that it is being built for the same reason that any house of worship is usually built in a given community: There are enough members of a given religious group in a community that they seek to have a local place to gather and worship.
Geller speaks of the people protesting the mosque as "freedom lovers". Have any of them ever heard of the First Amendment? Have any of them ever heard the words "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"? And it is not limited to New York.
To me, these actions are far from freedom loving. It is behavior like this which caused many to come to America in the first place. It is why my great-grandparents fled Latvia and Poland, seeking to escape the anti-Semitism in those places and build a new life in America, where it did not pose a danger to their lives and safety to be a Jew. Our fellow Americans that happen to be Muslim deserve no less today.
Let them build.