Fight For Accountability At Makki Masjid Goes To Court

Fight For Accountability At Makki Masjid Goes To Court
Makki Masjid located at 1089 Coney Island Avenue. (Photo: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner)

MIDWOOD – The fight for accountability at the beloved Makki Masjid in Little Pakistan has found its way out the doors of the mosque and into the court.

Makki Masjid, officially the Muslim Community Center of Brooklyn (MCCB), has stood on Coney Island Avenue between Avenue H and Glenwood Road since 1982. Late last year, tensions erupted inside the Mosque as the old management refused to give way to the new one. Tensions were so intense that a literal fight broke inside the house of worship.

Now, the new management, comprised of a new generation that includes Akbal Khan, Qudeer Khan, and Balal Khan, is taking the old management, comprised of men that have been operating the mosque for eight years, to court. Why? They want to know where the money went and want the old management to be held accountable and provide answers. Court documents name these men as, Akram Amin Khan, Mohammad Rashad, Mohammad Maqsood, Mushtaq Ali, Malik Khan, Ramzan Khan, some John Doe’s, and the trustees. It is to be noted that several people from both sides are related to one another.

According to court documents, the lawsuit seeks two actions. For background, on October 13, 2018, an election was held at the Mosque. Akbal Khan, Qudeer Khan, and Balal Khan were elected to “be the lawful and legitimate governing body of the Mosque, holding exclusively all powers under the… Mosque’s constitution and by-laws.” The old management, it turned out, would not respect the results and did not recognize the new management.

“Since becoming the newly elected officers, the Defendants have failed to turn over the keys, memos, documents, writing, books and other… belonging to MCCB which should be turned over to the new executive body,” the court document states.

According to Afzal Ilahi, a man who plays an advisory role in the new management, the lawsuit was filed because there was nothing else that could be done. He said the new management went forward with a lawsuit for two reasons: women and kids were not being involved in the Mosque and money was being mismanaged.

“Our goal is to restructure the entire Masjid. There is no fight. Our goal is to make sure the management changes and to get our community back on track for our women and children,” he told Bklyner. “If we don’t step in now, what will happen to the next generation?”

The first action the lawsuit seeks is a “declaratory judgment to validate the results” of the election. The second action sought by the lawsuit includes the following: a full accounting of the Mosque’s funds and properties, an order permanently restraining the old management from using the name and likeliness of the Mosque (unless directed by the Officers), and an order permanently restraining the old management from having any role in the governance or management of the Mosque.

The action also seeks damages based on breach of duties by the trustees, damages based on corporate wrongdoing and waste, damages based on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) violations (RICO is a “federal law designed to combat organized crime in the United States”), and damages resulting from the old management’s fraud, deceit, and theft.

According to the court documents, the old management allegedly assumed responsibility of the Mosque in 2011, but its members were never elected. The last known election for officers of the Mosque, plaintiffs allege, was held on February 5, 2006. During that election, Mohammad Azam Chaudhry, Malik Khan, Rashid Sakindar, Mahammad Maqsood, Ikram Qureshi, and Hukam Chaudhry were elected to serve for four years. After 2010, when their terms expired, there seems to be no record of an election.

“By methods and means unknown, Akram Amin Khan, Mohammad Rashad, Mohammed Maqsood, and Mushtaq Ali assumed the positions of President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary (‘Outgoing Officers’), respectively, and took absolute control of the operation, functions, running of, and control of MCCB and Makki Masjid,” the document alleges.

Back in November, Bklyner reported that the money that is continuously donated to the Mosque is not being used for the Mosque. The court document echoes that statement. Plaintiffs say that during the day, congregants deposit money into donation boxes that are left throughout the Mosque.

The only group of people who have access to those keys is the old management. According to court documents, plaintiffs allege that during Jummah prayer on Friday, there is approximately $2,500 collected. Donations increase even more during Ramadan where Muslims are encouraged to donate to charity. The most donations come during Eid. At the Mosque, Eid can bring over $50,000 in donations, they say. But where does the money go from there?

“Upon information and belief, at all times herein, whenever monies are collected on Jummah, the entire amount of monies collected are never deposited into the JP Morgan Chase bank account. Upon information and belief, the monies are carried first to Defendant Malik Khan’s home and then only a portion of the collections is deposited into the account.”

According to the document, the money that was collected from Eid never made it to the JP Morgan Chase bank account.

As Bklyner reported in November, the Mosque has always been under constant construction. At the time, we wrote that scaffolding was routinely put up and donations boxes were always placed inside stores asking for money to “fix and build the Mosque.” But somehow after tremendous amounts of money, there is still scaffolding outside the Mosque. And in a structure with hundreds of congregants praying during the hot nights of Ramadan, there are still no air conditioners.

The court document echoes the reporting.

“Defendants have called out for pledges during their reign to fix the Mosque building. Despite thousands of dollars being collected for the alleged repairs, the conditions alleged to have existed years ago continue to exist despite monies having been raised to correct the alleged conditions.”

In turns out, in 2011, the management hired Rawal Construction Corp. with an exclusive contract to repair the Mosque. The contract was signed by Akram Amin Khan and Mushtaq Ali. The Mosque’s secretary Mushtaq Ali, it turns out, served as the president of Rawal Construction Corp. As part of the contract, $15,000 was paid to the Construction corp as a down payment.

“The estimated expense of the construction project, which was to run for six years, [averaged] about $174,000 per year.”

Ilahi tells Bklyner the new management just wants accountability. He says it’s been a long road with absolutely no change in the masjid that has long served as a place of refuge. If the new management wins the lawsuit, Ilahi said, change will absolutely come. He said women will finally have their own floor and the Mosque will also have a few women trustees. He promised there would be after-school programs where certified teachers will come and tutor kids. He also said there would be a gym in the basement for the youth to try to get them off the streets. But what’s on top of their list is getting the construction completed once and for all.

For those that say the new management is in it to make money from the Mosque, Ilahi says otherwise.

“We’re here to donate money, not take money from a masjid,” he said. “We don’t need the money. We don’t need to live off Masjid money. We’re just here to restructure the entire system.”

The new management’s main priority, he said, is restructuring the Masjid for the next generation.

“Our goal is to make our community strong. Let’s get these kids off the street. Let’s get the Islamic programs going. Let’s get Jummah prayer in English as well as Urdu. Let’s let the kids know exactly what is going on. If we don’t fix it for the next generation, who will?

We reached out to Balal Khan, Qudeer Khan, and Mushtaq Ali for comment. They did not provide us with a comment.

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