Battle over West Philly mosque's control goes to court

Posted: March 06, 2013

THE FIGHT for control of the city's oldest African-American mosque made its way into Common Pleas Court on Monday.

The trial to settle the long-running dispute at the Philadelphia Masjid in West Philadelphia began more than a year after the first request for an emergency injunction filed by the organization's elected officials was dismissed.

An injunction was sought after what elected officials say was a hostile takeover by a rival group called the "concerned believers." Fights broke out inside the mosque, on 47th Street near Wyalusing Avenue, during religious services. An imam and the board's chairman were assaulted during the scuffle.

The rival group voted to remove the board members after accusing them of amending the bylaws to maintain their posts. The board argued that some of the votes had been cast by nonregistered members.

"The board was forcibly removed from this property," attorney Vernon Chestnut told Common Pleas Judge Mark Bernstein. "The locks were changed. They could no longer function as a board of directors."

But attorneys for the rival group, Sharif Street and Darwin Beauvais, argued that changes to the bylaws had not been properly entered and that members had not received adequate notice of those changes, which, they contend, infringed on their voting rights. They argued that there's no evidence that Kalam id-din, who has served on the board since 2006, was re-elected.

"We believe there should have been an election in 2009," said Beauvais. "We have seen that there may have been additional board members elected, but never, not once do we see that for the chair."

On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom


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