Legal hurdles cleared; but where’s the money coming from?
Yesterday’s Cordoba Initiative event.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Left to scrapping together futile legal challenges, opponents of the Islamic center to be located near Ground Zero are turning to this query: Will it receive support from extremist organizations? Dan Senor, a former Bush administration official, informed potential financiers earlier this week that anyone who partners with Cordoba House “needs to know there is going to be a real stigma.” Even supportive groups refer to the cost. “With a $100 million price tag,” David Harris, the American Jewish Committee Director, asks, “what are the exact sources of funding?”
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan are the couple behind the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and the Cordoba Initiative, the latter of which held a noon event yesterday flaunting its supporters, many of them Jewish. The Cordoba Initiative is not wealthy. As of 2008, according to tax files, its net assets were $18,255. ASMA has deeper pockets, with an annual intake of nearly $1 million, according to its 2009 filing [pdf]. It received substantial grants from the United Nations Population Fund, a Dutch Fund for gender equality, as well as standard U.S. philanthropy groups. Nearly half of its funding, though, comes from the Qatari government. (The building was actually purchased by SoHo Properties, a private real estate company run by Sharif el-Gamal, a congregant of the imam.)
This obviously leaves the center well short of its ambitious fundraising goal. Oz Sultan, a spokesman for the new nonprofit that will take charge of the fundraising effort, called Park51, told me that fundraising efforts were “super-nascent right now.” Funds will arrive, he said, “from a variety of different sources,” including grants, bond issues, and private contributions. Arts funding are a possibility, he shared, noting Park51′s aspirations to create a city structure on par with the Guggenheim. “There’s not going be minarets,” he added. (more…)