Staten Island, NY – Things got heated at a community meeting on Staten Island where representatives from an Islamic group answered tough questions about their pending purchase of a former convent. When one man began shouting down another, the meeting’s organizers shut down the event, the Staten Island Advance reported.
The Archdiocese of New York has struck a deal to sell an unused property in the Midland Beach section of the borough to the Muslim American Society, which intends to turn it into a mosque and community center.
The plan is a reflection of Staten Island’s growing Muslim population, but it has drummed up opposition and concerns from other residents of the neighborhood.
Part of the concern stems from a video posted on a conservative website that shows one member of the Muslim American Society, Mahdi Bray, apparently voicing support for Hezbollah and Hamas.
But the Muslim American Society says the video was shot long before Bray worked with the society. Also, he told the Staten Island Advance : “I categorically deny that I am a supporter of or that I am a terrorist supporter.”
A spokesman for the Archdiocese said that the agreement to sell the convent to the Muslim American Society is not final because it still needs to pass through various internal and civil stages.
In the meantime, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York wrote in his blog that Catholics should be civil and welcoming to newcomers “not only because of our own experience of sometimes being scorned in the past, but also because our faith teaches it.”
He acknowledged that Staten Island residents have the right to know what is going in their neighborhood.
“Yes, it is acceptable to ask questions about security, safety, the background and history of the groups hoping to build and buy,” Archbishop Dolan wrote in his blog. “What is not acceptable is to prejudge any group, or to let fear and bias trump the towering American (and for us Catholics, the religious) virtues of hospitality, welcome, and religious freedom.”