"Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar," yelled Mayor Ed Koch in Arabic on an exciting day for New York's Muslim community in 1987. With his shout (which means "God is great") Koch was present to celebrate the construction of the first mosque in New York City built from the ground up -- the Islamic Cultural Center of New York on Riverside Drive.
Back then, the only significant obstacle to the mosque's creation were funding problems, changing plans and internal feuding, all of which were eventually resolved.
Much, though, has changed in the past two decades. Now challenges to new mosques in New York City have grown to include some fresh problems, as the proponents of a new mosque in Sheepshead Bay have learned.
The proposed mosque, which does not yet have a name, has received the criticism that faces any establishment that tries to plant itself in a residential neighborhood: worries about parking problems, noise and the effect on property values. In the diverse waterfront Brooklyn community, the proposal to build a mosque also has become ensnared in allegations of bigotry on both sides, concerns about terrorism and debates about the Middle East. While the dispute there is the most heated in the city so far, it comes at a time when some other mosques in the metropolitan area have received increased scrutiny.