Is end near in mosque battle?

Posted: January 25, 2012

THE BATTLE for control of a West Philadelphia mosque may soon be over.

The imam and members of the board of the Philadelphia Masjid, at 47th Street and Wyalusing Avenue, the city's oldest continuously operated African-American mosque, filed an emergency injunction nearly two weeks ago after what they described as a hostile takeover by a rival faction calling itself the "concerned believers." Religious services were interrupted and fights broke out inside the mosque in which the chairman of its board, Rafiq Kalam id-din, and Imam Malik Mubashshir were assaulted, court documents allege.

Accusing the leaders of changing the bylaws to let them keep their positions and turning members away, members of the rival group voted to remove the board. The board argued that only members can vote and that some of the votes are not from members. One member of the elected board even jumped ship and joined the rival group.

But an order issued yesterday by Common Pleas Judge Idee Fox called for Kalam id-din to "stand for a retention election" March 3.

The elected officials said that the rival group includes supporters of ousted imam Shamsud-din Ali, a main figure in the 2005 City Hall bugging scandal, now completing an 87-month prison term.

"It's not coincidental that this is all happening when Shamsud-din is looking to be released next year," said Willie Lee Nattiel, attorney for the elected officials. "My clients believe he's behind this."

"[Kalam id-din] was the champion against this fallen leader [Ali] and now he has become the despot," said Darwin Beauvais, attorney for the rival group. "He takes away titles and decided to lock doors. What happened to the spirit of community?"

Fox ordered that a committee of five members be selected to oversee the election and determine voter eligibility. Both sides will name two individuals whose names will be submitted to the court Jan. 30, and those members will select a fifth member by Feb. 4. If the four committeemen cannot select a fifth member, the court will.

A status hearing is slated for March 26.

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