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Boston mosque rises above the fray

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Their accusations of radical leadership rest on past or present ISB ties to three people. One charge involves a recent trustee, Walid Fitaihi (who taught at Harvard Medical School and returned to Saudi Arabia to open a hospital), whose anti-Semitic comments were published in an Arabic newspaper in 2000. Another involves a man who had been involved in the ISB in the 1980s and was recently jailed for participating in a plot to kill a Saudi official.

The third involves Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi of Qatar, a very prominent Muslim cleric. A reformist on issues such as support for democracy, the sheikh holds a controversial stance on suicide bombing. Opposing it in general, including 9/11 and the London bombings, he supports it when people are under occupation, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iraq. He has been banned from the US since 1999.

The ISB responds that Mr. Qaradawi was an honorary trustee in the 1990s but is not connected to the society today.

The DP also questions the fact that some funding for the new mosque has come from Saudi Arabia. The ISB, which got a loan from the Islamic Development Bank, says the bank is a reputable organization that allows ISB to meet the requirements for interest-free Islamic financing.

When Jewish leaders talked of a complete cutoff of communication with the ISB, one Jewish organization, the Boston Workmen's Circle (BWC), picked up the torch.

"Lawsuits can go on for years, and we started looking at what we could do to keep communication going," says Michael Felsen, BWC president. They held a forum at which attorneys for both sides made presentations, and then began seeking backing in the Jewish community for a public call for mediation.

Meanwhile, a group of young Jews, seeing the challenge against the ISB as "fear-mongering and Islamophobia," launched a website (www.supportthemosque.org) to encourage others in the Jewish community to support the ISB.

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