The Lodi Muslim Mosque is facing more legal battles. In the latest action, a group of disgruntled members who are angry at the current mosque leadership served a petition demanding mosque president Mohammed Shoaib hold elections.
The petition, served on Sept. 23, gives the mosque 20 days to hold board of directors' elections or legal action can be taken, according to lawyer for the mosque members Robert Foster.
Foster said that, as a registered nonprofit organization, the mosque has bylaws that require elections to be held annually or when 10 percent of the membership calls for them. He said his clients, including mosque members Taj Khan and Aman Khan (no relation), have the option of taking the case to San Joaquin County Superior Court if the mosque leadership does not comply with the petition.
"It is an ongoing, complex dispute," Foster said. "We are hoping the other individuals understand that free elections are in the benefit of everyone."
Mosque treasurer Nick Qayyum said current mosque leaders announced the intention to hold elections last November, but no one came forward so they stayed on.
Shoaib said that he does not plan to act on the petition.
"The petition means nothing," he said. "The elections will never happen until the court says so."
Foster said he had not discussed with his clients whether to pursue legal action once the 20-day deadline expires.
Taj Khan, who is leading the effort to call for elections, said that more than 130 members signed the petition, constituting 25 percent of the membership. He said that his group retained the services of Foster two months ago. Elections at the mosque haven't been held in two years, according to Taj Khan.
"They have been illegally controlling the mosque," Taj Khan said. "We want to bring in representatives of the people to run it properly. People are afraid to go to the mosque. Some people, who have been members for 20 to 30 years, have been sidelined because they do not have a say in the leadership."
Shoaib said the petition should not be binding because many of the signatories are not members of the board.
"Those people didn't go to the mosque. They didn't pay their $10 fee. They are not members," he said.
This latest skirmish between the two sides vying for control of Lodi's only mosque comes nearly a year after a judge ruled to leave the mosque in the hands of Shoaib. A favorable ruling in that 2005 lawsuit would have removed Shoaib from the board.
In a separate 2005 suit, the mosque sued the Farooqia Islamic Center to return a $187,000 donation. That action is still pending and will next be heard in court in December.
Timeline of the dispute over the Lodi Muslim Mosque:• Sept. 23, 2006: Mosque served with petition to hold elections.
• November 2005: Mosque leaders post intention to hold elections; no one comes forward.
• Nov. 1, 2005: San Joaquin County judge rules to leave mosque leadership in the hands of Mohammad Shoaib.
• March 17, 2005: Mosque files lawsuit for the return of $187,000 in donations made to the Farooqia Islamic Center.
• February 2004: Shoaib allegedly offers letter of resignation from mosque but stays on.
- News-Sentinel staff
First published: Tuesday, October 10, 2006