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Last weekend marked a milestone in the history of interfaith relations in Boston (as noted in Michael Felsen's 'Walls and Bridges' - in Monday's Jerusalem Post). On Friday, local Muslims, public officials, and interfaith leaders celebrated the opening of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury - a religious complex paid for largely by the Saudis and run by what federal authorities describe as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Some milestone! The city has helped the Wahhabi clerical establishment - purveyors of the most intolerant religious teachings on the planet - and the Muslim Brotherhood - genesis of all Sunni terrorist organizations - set up shop in the Cradle of Liberty, flying a false flag of moderation. And to make matters worse, this sad milestone is praised as a great victory for diversity and a boon to local Muslims.
Meanwhile, those who criticize this arrangement are branded as bigots and dragged into court, while the press and public officials ignore the links between the leaders of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center and Islamist hatred and terrorism. These claims are supported by tens of thousands of pages of evidence - much of it delivered to us by the society as a result of the discovery process triggered by their own lawsuit.
So why worry? What will the following facts portend for the future of interfaith harmony in Boston and of the venerable and moderate Muslim community of Boston?
THE ISLAMIC Society of Boston Cultural Center offers courses from the Islamic American University, whose vice chairman is Jamal Badawi, a trustee of the center, and headed by Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a hate-mongering preacher from the Gulf who has been banned from Egypt and the United States. As the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, he praises suicide bombers, debates the correct way to murder homosexuals, and has urged that the Jews be murdered "to the last one."
Trustee Walid Fitahi has claimed that according to the Koran, Jews are "killers of the Prophets," responsible for the "oppression, murder, and rape of the worshipers of Allah." Yet Fitahi was chosen to read Koranic passages at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
ISB records show that the organization has both received money from and donated money to organizations that were later investigated or shut down for terrorist activities. Among the recipients of ISB largesse are the Benevolence International Foundation - an Al Qaeda charity - and the recently convicted Holy Land Foundation - a Hamas charity.
These are the people who will now be ministering to the spiritual needs of the local Muslim community and bringing to the center preachers who share their views.
Case in point: The ISB invited Yasir Qadhi to speak at its Cambridge mosque in March. Qadhi is a Holocaust denier who preaches that Jews want to destroy Muslims and that Christians are theologically "filthy." An earlier ISB preacher, Salah Soltan, claims that the Israelis use the skulls of Palestinian babies as ashtrays.
Are these invitations or the warped views of Qaradawi, Fitahi, and Badawi simply irrelevant to the future of interfaith relations in Boston? Or does the city's willingness to cooperate with such people constitute a great betrayal of the local Muslim community?
WHILE WE were demonstrating against this extremist leadership outside the mosque last week, we got a chilling look at the future of diversity in Boston. One of the imams who came over to talk with us denied the existence of slavery in the Sudan and said that preaching death for homosexuals is an "opinion" to which Qaradawi is "entitled." And an angry Muslim youth from the mosque informed us that it was common knowledge that the Jews had tried to assassinate and "betray" the prophet Mohammed. Consequently, he claimed that Jews could be discriminated against "to some extent."
No sensible person believes that this is what multiculturalism is supposed to mean - and it is way past time for sensible citizens to demand answers to questions about the leaders of the new Islamic Center in Roxbury.
Dennis Hale is a member of the Political Science Department at Boston College. Charles Jacobs is president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance. Both headed organizations sued by ISB. This op-ed was first was published in The Boston Globe.