Roxbury mosque field trip raises ire

A Boston-based nonprofit fanned the firestorm surrounding the Ground Zero Muslim center Thursday with a video of Wellesley public middle school boys praying during a field trip to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center last May.

The president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Dr. Charles Jacobs, alleges the $15.6 million mosque in Roxbury was nefariously funded, and its leaders masquerade as moderates.

“Why did the school send the kids to this particular mosque given all we know about it?” he said.

Bilal Kaleem, president of the Muslim American Society of Boston, which operates the mosque, said their policy prohibits invitations to pray. It’s up to groups to determine their comfort zone, he said.

“I watched the video and it seems the bulk of the students are in the observing area,” he said. “There were three or four kids who went into the hall. They were looking to the person next to them, which seems to me they were not bowing in prayer, per se, but trying to follow along.

“Our responsibility is to make it a place open to teaching.”

In a letter apologizing to parents Thursday, Wellesley superintendent, Bella Wong, said the five boys were invited to pray.  

“The fact that the students were allowed to do so in this case was an error,” she wrote.

“In the future, teachers will provide more clear guidance to students to better define what is allowed to fulfill the purpose of observation.”

 Professor under fire for blog

The Wellesley controversy is not the only culture clash raging in Massachusetts. Former Harvard professor and New Republic editor Martin Peretz called Muslim life “cheap” on his blog this month. Many are calling for Harvard to renege on honoring Peretz during the 50th anniversary of the school’s social studies major next week.

On Thursday, Gov. Deval Patrick also said he supports the Ground Zero mosque because he was harassed by Milton police as a Milton Academy student.

“I don’t want to put them through what I went through,” he said.


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