Bowing to pressure from Staten Island's xenophobic reactionaries, a local pastor has reversed his decision to sell a convent to an Islamic group that would use it as a community center and mosque. In the wake of an ugly community meeting last week, Rev. Keith Fennessy, the pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church, sent a letter yesterday to Archbishop Timothy Dolan explaining that upon reflection he had "concluded that the contemplated sale would not serve the needs of the parish." Fennessy had already signed a contract with the group, the Muslim American Society, to sell the vacant convent for $750,000. MAS didn't find out about Fennessy's reneging until a reporter called to ask them about it—after seeing a press release on the Archbishop's website.

A spokesman for the Archbishop cautioned that Fennessy "does not have the ability to simply veto and say the deal is off." The sale isn't final until approved by the parish’s trustees, including Rev. Fennessy, two lay members of his congregation, the archdiocese’s vicar general and the archbishop. "The contract was signed, and this does not cancel that," Zwilling told SI Live. "The next step is to see what the response is from the MAS, and I can’t predict that. It is our hope that there can be a way the parish and the MAS can meet and reach an amicable solution." In other words, maybe MAS will just quietly go worship their monkey god somewhere else?

Not exactly. Ayman Hammous, president of MAS’s Staten Island branch, told the Times, "At this point, as far as I am concerned, we still have a deal. We are not backing off." But without the support of the local pastor (who retired at the height of the controversy, but hasn't been replaced), the mosque is all but blocked. The locals who believe (erroneously) that MAS has ties to terrorist organizations are no doubt relieved, but the head of the local Civic Association says her beef was never really about terrorism, but about finding parking on Fridays when the mosque was used: "It would have been a nightmare."