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.

Muslim Center’s Developer to Use Islamic Loan Plan

Sharif el-Gamal, the developer, of the planned Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero envisions raising $140 million project by utilizing instruments developed to allow many Muslim investors to comply with religious prohibitions on interest. Most of the financing, Mr. Gamal said on Wednesday, would come through religiously sanctioned bondlike investments known as sukuk, devised in Muslim nations to allow religious Muslims to take part in the global economy and increasingly explored by American banks. Sukuk and other Islamic banking instruments are tracked on the Dow Jones Islamic Market Index.

Of the $140 million, Gamal, is hoping to raise $27 million through a nationwide campaign which will focus on small donations from Muslims and other supporters. The remaining bill will be financed, to build the 15-story center, which will eventually have about 4,330 paying members. Most of that core group, Mr. Gamal expects, would be non-Muslim neighborhood residents and commuters. Muslims from around the region would make up a larger but less frequently visiting group — what he calls the “dinner and a date” crowd — many of them choosing the cheapest $375 family membership for cultural programs.

Mr. Gamal and Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who is his planning partner in the project, have promised that they will invite the federal government to review all the donations.