Saturday, July 24, 2010
Midland Beach mosque voted down by church's board of trustees
TATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The board of trustees for St. Margaret Mary’s R.C. Church has rejected a controversial proposal to sell its former convent to a group that would convert it to a mosque.
After nearly two months of emotionally-charged rallies and heated exchanges between members of the Muslim community and Midland Beach residents, the board said it has decided to side with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Keith Fennessy, who withdrew his support for the sale about a month ago.
“The trustees of the parish have met, as legally required under New York State law, and voted to ratify the pastor’s decision,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York. “The Muslim American Society has been informed that the sale of the convent will not take place. The Archdiocese of New York has enjoyed a good relationship with the Islamic community in the past, and looks forward to continued dialogue, friendship, and understanding in the future. It is also our prayer that unity will now return to the parish and to the Midland Beach community.”
The Archdiocese would not reveal the vote count, calling it a confidential matter.
How do you feel about the church board of trustees' vote against the mosque?
I'm glad! I didn't want it there anyway.
This is wrong! There was no reason for the mosque not to be built.
Residents have been up in arms since May, after learning that Father Fennessy had entered into an agreement with MAS to sell the parish’s empty convent for $750,000. MAS planned to build a mosque and community center in the space.
Because the contract was drafted quietly, without input from residents, and because of traffic, parking and other concerns, hundreds of area residents have expressed their opposition to the plan. Many have also wondered whether MAS has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a foreign organization with alleged links to terrorism.
According to the contract between the church and MAS, the mosque could not be constructed without approval from the church’s board of trustees.
While awaiting the vote, the community grew increasingly divided: Midland Beach residents rallied for six weekends in a row in opposition to the mosque, while the Muslim community vowed to start an Islamic Civic Association, denouncing terrorism and promising to raise awareness about the religion.