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Alcohol becomes a flashpoint - San Fransisco Chronicle

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  • Zafar Khan
    Alcohol becomes a flashpoint Bay Area Muslims say fellow Muslims who sell it violate religion Janine DeFao, Chronicle Staff Writer Saturday, January 28, 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2006
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      Alcohol becomes a flashpoint
      Bay Area Muslims say fellow Muslims who sell it
      violate religion
      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
      their communities.

      "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@....

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