The Deal

The sale of public land to the ISB for a deeply discounted price and in return for services related to the religion of Islam provided by the ISB to a public college raises concerns of violations of anti-establishment laws and the separation of church and state.

The ISB bought Parcel 14, which comprised 2.04 acres of public land at One Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury from the Boston Redevelopment Authority. In March 2000, the parcel was valued by the BRA at $2,010,966. According to the proposal submitted by the ISB at that point, it would pay only $104,522 for the land and provide $1,906,444 worth of unspecified public benefits. Three months later, the BRA agreed to sell the land for $401,187.50, of which amount the ISB would pay $175,000 and make up the rest in a package of public benefits.

The public benefits the ISB promised to provide as part of the deal included:

  • The provision of a series of lectures “on various aspects of Islam for 10 years at a value of $115,598 to the Roxbury Community College.
  • The provision of 5,000 books on Islamic law and the history of Islam to the Roxbury Community College at a value of $80,000.
  • The maintenance of a nearby playground for 10 years at a value of $38,533.
  • The maintenance of the neighboring Clarence “Jeep” Jones Park for 10 years at a value of $154,130.
  • Assistance to the Roxbury Community College in fundraising at a value of $67,065.

The deal brings up three separate concerns:

  1. Why is the City of Boston allow the teaching of Islam by the ISB, an Islamic religious organization (unlikely to be impartial), at a public community college? Why does this arrangement also provide the ISB with a discount on public land? In 1989, when the ISB-BRA deal was first being discussed, BRA counsel Tom Farrell cautioned that the deal could violate anti-establishment laws. Why was this warning ignored?
  2. How did it happen that land originally valued at $2 million was devalued within the space of 4 months to $400,000, of which the ISB only had to pay $175,000? Who at the BRA arranged the deal on such favorable terms?
  3. BRA officials knew that the ISB had possible links to terror and extremism and had written to the FBI admitting that they “must acknowledge the existence of individuals (both internal and external [to the ISB])” whose connections are problematic. In light of this information, why did the deal go on?
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