Alcohol becomes a flashpoint - San Fransisco Chronicle
- Alcohol becomes a flashpoint
Bay Area Muslims say fellow Muslims who sell it
Janine DeFao, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Bay Area Muslim leaders Saturday condemned fellow
Muslims who own liquor stores, saying they are
violating a tenet of their religion and poisoning
"We are here today to say loudly we stand together to
battle the evils of alcohol. There is no such thing as
'drink responsibly,'" Mohammad Rajabally, president of
the Islamic Society of the East Bay, told more than
100 Muslims gathered in the rain outside Oakland City
Hall. "When you have Muslims bringing (alcohol) to
people ... it is shameful."
Members of the newly formed Muslims for Healthy
Communities said they did not support the vandalism of
two Muslim-owned West Oakland liquor stores in
November by men who identified themselves as Muslims.
Six men affiliated with Your Black Muslim Bakery have
pleaded not guilty in the case.
But the coalition members said those incidents, and
the ensuing media coverage, provided an opportunity
for Muslims to tackle the issue of liquor stores in
poor communities, particularly those run by fellow
"If they hadn't done that, we wouldn't be here today.
It was the flashpoint," said Faheem Shuaibe, resident
imam of the Masjidul Waritheen mosque in East Oakland.
"It was the right intent, but simply done in the wrong
Members of the new group, which includes black, Arab
and white Muslims from throughout the Bay Area,
stopped at three liquor stores on a march from West
Oakland to City Hall. The exchanges were peaceful,
though a debate broke out at one store and employees
at another store called police.
One of the stores visited was S&A Market in downtown
Oakland, which Mohsin Hassan has owned for 30 years
after taking over the business from his father, who
emigrated from Yemen.
Hassan, who is Muslim, said the protesters are right
that Islam prohibits him from selling alcohol.
"It's not a good feeling. I think about it almost
every day," Hassan said in an interview. "I would like
to get away from it, but on my own terms, not by
oppression from somebody else trying to judge me."
Speakers at Saturday's event said they hope to work
with city and state officials and other organizations
trying to tackle the over-concentration of liquor
stores in Oakland's poorest neighborhoods. They also
said they want to help owners like Hassan who would
like to leave the liquor business.
Mohamed Saleh Mohamed, president of the Yemenie
American Grocers Association of California, said store
owners might welcome such help, but have not been
"On a personal level, there's a lot of guilt they're
selling a substance that's against their belief," said
Mohamed, who represents more than half the city's
liquor store owners, most of whom are Muslim. "At the
same time, they have made an investment."
He said the city and community need to help owners
change their businesses, from buying out their liquor
licenses to pressuring national franchises to locate
in inner-city neighborhoods.
Coalition members said 90 percent of Oakland's 350
liquor outlets are owned by Muslims, but Mohamed put
the figure between 50 and 60 percent.
Imam Abu Quadir al-Amin of the Muslim Community Center
in San Francisco said alcohol played a role in the
genocide of Native Americans.
"We see alcohol in the African American community
being used as a form of genocide," he said. "The
people are dead, but they're still walking around."
But liquor store owner Hassan said it is not up to his
fellow Muslims to judge him.
"I'm not here to hurt anybody or do anything wrong,"
Hassan said. "At the end, God is going to judge me."
E-mail Janine DeFao at jdefao@....
Page B - 1
More about Islam and Alcohol at: