Assembly hopeful Ben Akselrod is railing against the construction of the Sheepshead Bay mosque — a hopeless battle political insiders say the former Community Board 15 district manager has no chance of turning around, but will help him pander to Southern Brooklyn conservatives looking to get rid of the Muslim house of worship.
Akselrod, a Democrat looking to unseat Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) in September, claimed last week that the mosque being constructed on Voorhies Avenue will harm property values, cause a traffic nightmare on the block and draw radical elements to the leafy residential neighborhood.
“The Muslim American Society — the organization behind this mosque — originate from the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that was outlawed in the U.S.,” said Akselrod, alleging the mosque backers have terrorist roots.
Akselrod’s voiced his opposition just two weeks after state Sen. David Storobin wrote a letter to Mayor Bloomberg claiming that the mosque is thumbing its nose at city laws and threatens its neighbors’ lives.
“This may pose a danger to public safety,” Storobin (R–Brighton Beach) wrote as he bashed the city for allowing work on a house of worship continue.
Some say Akselrod’s sudden opposition to the mosque is all about getting the support of the Bay People — the group that’s repeatedly failed to get the project halted — and residents against the mosque’s construction. His opposition is also geared to make him stand out from Cymbrowitz, who they say hasn’t responded to the Bay People’s repeated pleas for help.
“Both Akselrod and Storobin are looking for an argument that will break the race open and in both cases they have to effectively attack people with larger reputations and history,” political analyst Hank Sheinkopf said. “They want to spend their time moving to the right, but what they should be talking about is bread and butter issues and cleaning up Albany.”
Mosque backers say that Akselrod’s opposition will ultimately backfire on the candidate.
“If he’s going to sell out Islam, he might sell out other religions when that becomes popular,” said mosque owner Ahmed Allowey, who said his four-story Islamic Center will be open by next summer.
Akselrod insists he has no political motive in speaking out against the mosque, claiming that it would have been irresponsible of him not to express his concerns.
“I have an opinion and I think it’s my responsibility to express it,” he said.
Opponents to the mosque say that traffic and parking are their driving concerns in demanding that the house of worship close, but the tenor of their rallies has been more anti-Islamic rather than anti-congestion.
Neighbors protesting the mosque often held signs reading, “Islam not welcome here,” “New York is not Islamabad” and “Do not forget 9-11!”
One resident even claimed he was going to “blow up the mosque” if it was built.Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cn