Praying for a Return to Normal

November 14, 2009

Author: Moises Mendoza and Mary Flood

Source: The Houston Chronicle

The last two days have been trying ones for the membership of the Islamic Education Center in west Houston.

Late Thursday, news broke that the federal government was moving to seek the forfeiture of the Voss Road building and other properties around the country owned by the Alavi Foundation, an organization suspected of having links to Iran.

News media descended on the large white building that houses a mosque and school. Helicopters hovered overhead as protesters gathered outside, accusing the center of wrongdoing. The center was so overwhelmed with phone calls that leaders recorded a phone message and sent out an e-mail to calm the faithful.

But federal officials later released a statement acknowledging that the center, as well as several other mosques around the country whose facilities are owned by the Alavi Foundation, had fallen victim to a unfortunate cycle of misinformation.

“No action has been taken against any tenants or occupants of those properties,” said Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York in a statement. “There are no allegations of any wrongdoing on the part of any of these tenants or occupants.”

On Friday, center leaders said they had an unambiguous message for Houston: We are open for business and have done nothing wrong. They expressed their frustration with the relentless tide of reports that have tied their place of worship to Iran.