News circulated this week about the arrest of a Nation of Islam school dean accused of extorting an employee at Bayview Liquors -- a grocery store owned by Yemenese Muslims on Third Street.
According to news reports, police said that Leon Muhammad, dean of the Muhammad University of Islam school next to the Hunter's Point Shipyard, gave the employee an Islamic leaflet and demanded a donation. He then threatened to "cut [the employee] into pieces and burn the place down" for selling alcohol in the neighborhood.
Leon Muhammad maintains his innocence: He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of extortion and criminal threats. His attorney refused to comment to the Examiner on the specifics of the case, and only offered an evasive statement, saying "the facts will come to light."
While owners of the Bayview Liquors store did not return phone calls for this story, SF Weekly interviewed the co-owner, Adnan Mohsin, for a 2009 cover story. At that time, Mohsin said his uncle owned one of the Oakland liquor stores that were raided in 2005 by Yusef Bey IV (yes, that
Yusef Bey) from Your Black Muslim Bakery.
Bey and his tuxedo-clad
cohorts trashed two liquor stores run by Middle Eastern owners in black
neighborhoods. (Your Black Muslim Bakery is a separate organization from
the Nation of Islam, the national organization run by Minister Louis
While to some setting a store on fire may seem an exaggerated threat, Mohsin actually has had that happen, too. The 2008 cover story detailed how Mohsin's brother, Haggag, was on trial for having shot a
woman he said shoplifted from the family's now-defunct clothing store,
Pop Ya Collar, down the block. After the shooting, a man from the
neighborhood threw a Molotov cocktail through the shop's window, setting the
store ablaze. The jury decided Haggag Mohsin was not guilty on all
counts for the shooting, saying it was done in self-defense.
Adnan Mohsin, a
practicing Muslim from Yemen, told us at the time he felt conflicted
about selling liquor, especially since Muslims are prohibited from consuming alcohol. Mohsin lives with the tension daily, often bowing with his brothers for daily prayers in the backroom of the liquor shop.
"It do bother me... What I believe inside me,
inside me, I believe I want to be a Muslim, I want to do what I believe. But I'm
still in here, I'm stuck here, I can't sell [the store]," he said. "If I sell it what I'm gonna do?
My [other] job don't be enough. It's not gonna be enough for all my kids."
"It's just a living," Mohsin said. "Most people think its just a way to make
a living, if you just have a grocery and sell soda you won't make no money."
Shamieh, vice president of the Arab American Grocers Association,
which represents 400 Arab and South Asian-owned stores in the Bay Area, chimed in on the debate: "I disbelieve this is something [the Nation of Islam] would do. I
hope this accusation is wrong."
He said the Nation of Islam and Arab
grocery-story owners face the same discrimination, and should be united.
"Instead of being able to do their
business in peace in the neighborhoods, they're being attacked by some
organization that should know what it means to be discriminated against
and on the other side of oppression. It's our position that all of us
should come together whether Muslims from ethnic communities or the
Nation of Islam, and unite to face economic prejudice from up above."Teresa Caffese, who was Haggag Mohsin's attorney in the 2009
trial, said the family mostly integrated into the neighborhood.
unfortunate there's an element that still feels they don't belong in
the neighborhood," Caffese says. "Everyone is just trying to make a
living and get along, and it's just a few people who can't seem to move
Muhammad's attorney, Damone Hale, did not return a phone message
This is not the first time that Muhammad has been accused of
aggressive acts. As covered in a 2009 cover story,
outreach workers with the Department of Public Health called off a
door-to-door campaign to tell Bayview residents about the risks of the
construction dust at the nearby Hunter's Point Shipyard when Muhammad
showed up with school children in tow, telling residents that the workers were
paid to say those things.
Keith Jackson, a representative from Lennar Corp., the developer for the site, said he called the cops after Muhammad had intimidated him in the parking lot outside a community meeting at the Bayview Opera House.