Sharif El-Gamal, the real estate developer behind the $100 million Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero, has been taking the spotlight from the project’s imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, as he begins fundraising for the controversial 15-story Park51 building.
The picture that’s emerging of El-Gamal — who collected $10,000 in pledges following a prayer service on Friday — is not always flattering.
El-Gamal, 37, has had at least seven run-ins with the law, including a 1994 bust for patronizing a prostitute, a DWI in 1992 and a 2005 assault on a tenant who was subletting a Manhattan apartment from his brother, the Daily News reported.
“I regret many things that I did in my youth. I have not always led a perfect life,” he told the News. He said he turned to Islam after 9/11. His religious awakening followed a “troubled youth.”
El-Gamal may also owe $224,000 in property taxes on the Park51 property, the New York Post reported, though a spokesperson for El-Gamal told the paper the taxes had been paid.