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Debate rages over proposed Staten Island mosque

June 10, 2010 4:56:11 AM PDT
A plan to turn a former convent into a mosque and community center on Staten Island has outraged thousands of residents.

Both opponents and supporters got together to voice their opinion Wednesday night.

It was supposed to be a meeting of the Muslim American Society about the mosque and whether it would be a good fit for the community, but the meeting quickly degenerated into outbursts of anger and hostility.

Leaders of the Muslim American Society answered questions at the meeting, hoping to calm the community's concerns about the sale of the former St. Margaret Mary convent for use as a mosque and community center.

Hundreds of people showed up, both in support and in protest. Some of the rowdiest protestors were thrown out. At least 200 people who couldn't find seats inside stood outside in the rain for hours to voice their opinion.

"We are here to deliver a message of peace," Palestinian-American Ziad Allen said. "When I say peace upon you, it means peace for everyone."

"They have ties to people associated with 9/11," Staten Island resident Dan Quinn said.

One of the issues opponents point to was a video, allegedly shot in 2000 that shows one of the Muslim group's leaders at a rally cheering for the terrorist group Hamas. It is a stance he has since denied taking.

"They are not educated enough to know the difference between Muslims and terrorists," Muslim-American Mohamed Khashab said.

Other residents say they are against the mosque and community center for more practical reasons, such as the parking problems. Some were upset that the church decided to sell the convent to the Muslim American Society without first notifying them.

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