The Muslim American Society has been widely accused of having ties to the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood.
Opponents of the Staten Island sale, and critics of the Muslim American Society more generally, have zeroed in on a videotape of the society’s president, Mahdi Bray, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood at a 2000 rally outside the White House. Also, the 1993 founding of the Muslim American Society involved Muslim Brotherhood members, including Mohammed Mahdi Akef, now supreme guide for the Brotherhood in Egypt, and Ahmed Elkadi, then the leader of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.
Ibrahim Ramey, the human civil rights director for the Muslim American Society, defended his group as a peaceful organization in an open letter to the press.
“We know that we must overcome prejudice and fear, and even racism, just as other religious groups in this nation have confronted the same barriers,” he wrote.
Ms. Safah said neighbors were angry and fearful because they know little about the organization.
“We acknowledge that people have fears, especially from an organization they have not heard of much,” she said.
Protesters also have rallied against plans for a mosque in Sheepshead Bay, a neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The Muslim American Society also is funding this project, a four-story mosque and community center intended to serve 1,500 people. The site is surrounded by homes, prompting fears among residents that the mosque will cause noise, traffic and a parking shortage.
Although much of the opposition stems from quality-of-life concerns, some people are wary of the reported connections between the Muslim American Society and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“It’s about the Muslim American Society,” said Pamela Gellar, an author and anti-jihad and pro-Israel blogger.
“It was originally the Muslim Brotherhood and they changed the name to make it more acceptable. I can understand why [the neighborhood] would not want the Muslim Brotherhood building a huge edifice there.”
The Muslim Brotherhood is an international entity founded in 1928 as a youth organization. Its primary goal is to make the Koran and associated Muslim traditions the “sole reference point” for family, society and the state. The group’s headquarters are in Cairo, though the group is officially banned in Egypt.
According to its official website, the Muslim Brotherhood’s objectives include efforts to “inform the masses, Muslim and non-Muslim of Islamic teachings.” The organization says it opposes violence as a means of achieving political goals, though it has spawned violent offshoots and the Egyptian government accuses it of numerous killings.
Perhaps the group’s most well-known member was Sayyid Qutb, whose book “Milestones” calls for using jihad to overthrow political structures in the Muslim world. His other works criticized Western society for moral and social decadence. Jihadists worldwide, including Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, cite Qutb as a formative influence.
Mr. Ramey called the backlash “religious bigotry” and “hatred.”