Lawsuit to halt mosque called 'intimidation'

Published May 2, 2007

MIAMI - A man fighting the opening of a mosque in his suburban neighborhood filed a lawsuit Tuesday to halt construction, a move derided by Arab leaders as anti-Muslim.

Rodney Wright claims the relocation of the Islamic Center of South Florida to his Pompano Beach neighborhood "presents a substantial harm to the well-being, safety and health" of the community. Wright identifies himself as a Christian.

The lawsuit claims mosque leader Imam Hassan Sabri has repeatedly been associated with others tied to terrorist groups including Hamas, al-Qaida and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, though the connections outlined in the filing appear loose with no accusation of direct wrongdoing.

Sabri has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing and neither he nor his mosque has been the target of any publicized investigation.

Larry Klayman, the attorney for Wright, claims the filing does not amount to an anti-Muslim action. But Joe Kaufman, the head of Americans Against Hate, which calls itself a civil rights organization but has been highly critical of major Muslim groups, has worked for Klayman and is identified on his group's Web site as the lawyer's special assistant.

Klayman initially denied employing Kaufman, though it is affirmed by filings with the Secretary of State's Office.

"I'm very much disturbed that in this day and age you'd find people going to such extreme measures to prevent a house of worship from being built in any American city, " said Altaf Ali, executive director of the South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is also named as a defendant in the suit. "I look at this as an act of religious intimidation."

Besides the lawsuit's terrorism claims, it makes more routine complaints, including that prayer meetings could cause substantial traffic and taxpayers will be forced to pay for increased infrastructure and police protection.