Menino's mosque

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  November 24, 2008

"My sense is that it will reflect a focus on the community more than some of the 'suburban' churches," says Roxbury city councilor Chuck Turner, referring to churches like 12th Baptist and Charles Street AME, whose congregations come primarily from outside the city. "[The new mosque's leaders] will have more of a consciousness of their responsibility."

Others, including Imams Faruuq and Talid, concede that skepticism about the future of the mosque is well-founded, but remain optimistic that the mosque will, in time, ultimately serve the unifying purpose they imagined 20 years ago. "The religion is a leveler," says Faruuq. "As time goes by, their [the ISB's] children and the children of the American-born [Muslims] will come together."

It appears that they, and the MAS-Boston leaders, will be trying to work through that process without much help from the city that created the situation. Since the mosque became a hot potato four years ago, Menino and other city representatives have vanished from public association with the project. The mayor has avoided events at the mosque itself, as well as fundraisers for it, and did not even send a representative to a major unity event at the mosque last year. Sources in the local Muslim community could not cite any effort his office has made toward integrating the newcomers with the existing Greater Roxbury Muslim community.

Most doubt that Menino even still is aware that the mosque stopped being a Roxbury community project when the city handed it to the ISB 10 years ago.

He certainly has done nothing in the time since then to re-examine the process that led us to this point, or to allow others to do so. Reports a year ago of a possible city review of Ali-Salaam's conduct have turned out to be unfounded. Proposed City Council hearings on the BRA's discounted sale of the land were shut down in 2006 by Menino's office, according to several City Hall sources. The City Council did not have the stomach to confront Menino, who not only controls city jobs councilors sometimes seek for constituents, but also regulates the city services councilors are called upon to deliver to the neighborhoods they represent. The city has stonewalled ongoing court orders for documents, including Ali-Salaam's e-mails. All this time later — six years after Menino's wide-grinned groundbreaking — we still don't have a complete mosque, or an explanation for why we do have what we have.

David S. Bernstein can be reached atdbernstein@phx.com.

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