What began more than three years ago as a momentous groundbreaking on a $22 million mosque and Islamic cultural center has turned into a bitter public controversy that has chilled relations between leaders of Boston’s Jewish and Muslim communities.

The most recent development unfolded in early March with reports of a possible conflict of interest by a Boston Redevelopment Authority employee who is a leader in the Islamic Society of Boston, or ISB.

According to newly discovered records, the man was involved in preparing the original mosque development proposal, which placed the value of the land at $2 million, or approximately five times the value stated when the land was conveyed to the ISB in May 2003. However, the ISB received a further reduction for in-kind services and benefits to the city and an adjacent public community college – such as establishing a library on the history of Islam – and paid just $185,000 for the 1.9-acre property.

Further questions have been raised about the Redevelopment Authority employee’s role in fund raising for the mosque.

The huge discrepancy in the land valuation is just one question about the mosque project that he’d like addressed, Boston City Councillor Jerry McDermott told JTA. McDermott says he supports the building of a mosque, but is calling for a hearing into the land deal.

What’s causing the most friction between Jewish and Islamic leaders is a lawsuit filed by the ISB against the David Project, a pro-Israel educational group that has been among the most visible groups raising public questions about the project.


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