What would you do if one of the richest men in the world dumped you? Muslim ‘divorcee’ Nivin El-Gamal explains all

This piece is an interview with Nivin El-Gamal who had years of court appearances against Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, 54, the son of the former ruler of Dubai and a man reportedly worth £19bn with regards to whether they were married and the consequences for their child. The London-based Muslim tells Louisa Peacock how she is finally escaping from the Sheikh’s shadow and putting two fingers up to her traditional upbringing, to forge her and her son a new life. The interview covers a variety of topics such as how El-Gamal, who comes from a rich family and who has led no ordinary life, might not find it hard to find the money to launch her new charity. However as someone with a solid business background; having founded an interior design business called Galaxy Stars, which counts pop stars, VIPs, foreign dignitaries and high-end London projects among its clients. She recalls how her father and grandfather disapproved of her business in the early days because she would come into “regular contact with men”. She says she was expected by her father to “marry someone from his society, rich like you, just be a mum, and if you are studying interior design, you’ll design your own house, that’s it”. Living in a world heavily steeped in tradition, where women are expected to behave and act in a certain way, it was unusual and brave for a 20-something girl like El-Gamal to break the mould and start her own firm – especially coming from a rich family where she did not need to make more money. The interview covers her early life in Egypt long before the current political situation and how the interviewee felt about life under Mubarak. Stating that life under Mubarak was much better and more liberal than life under the Muslim Brotherhood. Having said that, El-Gamal still holds views comparable with the Muslim brotherhood when it comes to the notion of family, she believes that people were put on earth only to reproduce and it follows that she disagrees with abortion; disapproves of contraception and sneers at same-sex marriage.

Islamic center near ground zero opens its doors; developer acknowledges ‘incredible mistakes’

A year after controversy engulfed plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan, the project’s developers are quietly moving ahead: In recent months they have hired a paid staff, started fund-raising drives and continued holding prayers and cultural events in their existing building two blocks from ground zero.

The developer of an Islamic cultural center that opened Wednesday evening near the site of the terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center says the biggest error on the project was not involving the families of 9/11 victims from the start.

El-Gamal said the overall center is modeled after the Jewish Community Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where he lives. The center is open to all faiths and will include a 9/11 memorial, El-Gamal said. He called opposition to the center — which prompted one of the most virulent national discussions about Islam and freedom of speech and religion since Sept. 11 — part of a “campaign against Muslims.”

Last year, street clashes in view of the trade center site pitted supporters against opponents of the center.

El-Gamal told the AP that fundraising is under way to complete a 15-story building that will also include an auditorium, educational programs, a pool, a restaurant and culinary school, child care services, a sports facility, a wellness center and artist studios. The mosque is especially needed in lower Manhattan, he said, because thousands of Muslims either work or live in the neighborhood, “and in our religion, we must pray five times a day.”

At the opening, an ebullient El-Gamal told reporters the project had been framed by others throughout the debate over its existence.

“Today, for the first time, everyone gets a little bit of a glimpse into the future of what Park51 is going to offer New York,” he said.

NYC mosque developer taking slower approach to project near ground zero

NEW YORK — The developer of an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero says it may take years to determine what kind of project Muslims and non-Muslims want.

Sharif El-Gamal tells The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/qXbGwi) that decisions will be made after consultation with lower Manhattan residents and New York City-area Muslims.

El-Gamal says that in the past year he’s built relationships with neighborhood groups. He’s recruited a 9/11 victim’s relative to his advisory board and sought donors from around the country. He concedes he should have done those things before going public with the project.

He also says he’ll only accept money from sources that reflect “American values.”
El-Gamal’s vision for the project remains unchanged: a mosque, health club, theater and religious and interfaith programming open to all.

2nd imam is out at Islamic center near WTC site

Shaykh Abdallah Adhami, a Muslim scholar who on Jan 14 was named as the new senior imam at the Islamic center being built near the World Trade Center site has given up the job. The 44-year-old had been announced as the new imam on Jan. 14, after its co-founder, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, was given a reduced role.

Shaykh Abdallah Adhami said Friday in a joint statement with the center’s developer that he will no longer serve as a religious adviser to the center. “It is important for me now to devote my time to the completion of my book, which assists English readers in understanding and facilitating the language of the Quran. I wish the project leaders well,” said Adhami.

However, shortly after his appointment, news reports questioned his views on homosexuality. In one recorded lecture, he said he believed that homosexuality was linked to childhood abuse.
That prompted El-Gamal to issue a statement last month in which he said that Adhami would not be a leader of the center, called Park51, but just one of a number of religious figures invited to participate in programming.