KENSINGTON – A pushing, shouting match broke out after four men came from inside the locked Church Avenue mosque and cut the poster put up by the community for the press conference last Friday at 2 pm.
A press conference was held outside Masjid Nur al Islam, a mosque that was abruptly closed after Thanksgiving, urging officials to open it.
In August 8, the imam, Jauhar Ahmed, resigned after alleged claims of embezzlement. According to Maruf Alam, the Director of Community Affairs at New York State Assembly, the Kensington community raised about $350,000 to purchase the property next door to the 21 Church Ave mosque. It turned out, the imam never brought the building. What he did instead, was he brought the community mosque (with his trustees), became the owner of it, and changed the name to Islam Community Trust as Trustee.
“He found a gap in the law,” a congregant said. “And now owns the masjid.”
“People asked for money back, the money disappeared,” Alam told BKLYNER. The imam was then forced to resign. “He resigned because the community forgave him. But we are taking legal action.”
But on the night of Thanksgiving, Ahmed came inside the mosque “with his 20 or so hired armed security, with court papers saying a court date of a hearing to evict the people. He kicked everyone out,” said Kamil Nasir, a mosque trustee.
“He’s trying to intimidate the community,” Alam said.
Before the press conference began, a few community members tied up a poster, which said, “We unit for the greater cause of our community.” Dozens and dozens of men then gathered to await the press conference. All of the sudden, the door to the mosque opened and out walked four men with a scissor. They walked over to the poster and cut it.
People then began to shove in anger and began shouting in Bengali. The four men pushed back causing a ruckus. The NYPD then ran over separating the crowd.
As the four men walked back into the mosque, the Muslim community shouted, “Shame.”
“This is not Islam,” a congregant said. “Islam never allows us to lie about personal interest. Please do something, we need some law or administration to help us.”
Every time the imam’s name was mentioned, someone would shout, “he’s a criminal.”
“The rights of this community were taken away by force, the rights of the people to congregate, to pray the five times prayer and the friday sermon was taken away by one man,” Alam said. “We will not stand idle while this devastation is taking place.”
After Ahmed’s resignation in August, a governing board was elected by the members of the community. Ahmed then handed off the keys to Nasir peacefully.
According to community member Mian Quadry, Ahmed was a “fine man everyone loved.”
“He took an opportunity to defame the entire community,” Quadry said. “Not once in my life have I seen a mosque being locked up. That’s crazy!”
After congregants spoke, it was time for Asr, the third prayer of the day. Because the mosque was shut, the Adhan (call to prayer) was said outside. The men also prayed outside covering the concrete with thin mats.
“The imam left as the brothers were praying,” Wafa Khairry, a neighbor who happened to pass by said. “He left with some of his security. He looked like he was nervous and afraid.”
The community is currently taking legal action to get their mosque back.
“This masjid is for the community,” Quadry said. “We will find a way to unlock the doors.”
BKLYNER called the number written on the NYC Department of Finance form, under the new name of the mosque. A man picked up, first saying it was the wrong number. After calling again, he wanted to know where we were calling from. After letting him know about the mosque situation, he said “what other number is on the form?” And then abruptly hung up.