Board members walk out of meeting, are voted out

A video camera is focused on the audience before yesterday’s General Assembly meeting at the Islamic Center of Tucson. The community center’s office manager had to be told several times not to record the audience. Shortly after this photo was taken, the administration declared no more photos of the event would be allowed. (Amer Taleb)

By Amer Taleb

It was wild. And by the end of the Islamic Center of Tucson’s first General Assembly meeting of the year, all of the center’s board members were removed from office.

After waiting through a 30-minute delay and listening to the administrators speak about construction projects for two hours, the audience began interrupting.

“We’ve been listening to you for hours!” shouted one man. “When are we gonna speak?”

The bickering went back and forth, much of it from the audience complaining about the administration’s policies and lack of transparency. Sheikh Watheq Al-Obaidi, the center’s religious leader, reminded the roughly 100 people several times to remain calm.

Video played a confusing role in the meeting, one that ultimately ended the entire event.

Even though he was told several times not to, the Islamic Center’s office manager tried to video record the audience. Also, it was unclear why, but one of the board members played a video on the projector of another board member, Bilal El-Aloosy, turning in membership applications to the manager.

ICT Weekend School director Kamel Didan, who filmed the video with El-Aloosy’s permission, said the recording was uncontroversial and didn’t understand why it was shown. As soon as it played, the crowd erupted in anger, attendee Burhan Hamdan stood up and motioned to remove all of the board members.

One after another, the audience started to ‘second’ the motion, and the board tried to end it.

“Meeting adjourned,” said former board chairman Maqsood Ahmad.

He and former board members Jawad Khawaja and Fayez Swailem walked out, could not be found after the meeting and did not respond to email requests for an interview. Former board member Wali Yudeen Abdul Rahim also left and declined an interview.

After they exited the building, the meeting continued and the board members were stripped of their titles in absentia.

“The BOT(board) left the assembly without any excuse, they just ran away,” El-Aloosy said. “So the people voted them out.”

Wearing an ‘I love Libya’ shirt referencing the country’s recent revolution, David Shellouff explained why the walkout bothered him.

“We were lectured … and the minute a question came out, more lecture was thrown at us,” he said. “How can the board of a community walk out of a meeting with its members? You’re here to serve us. You can’t just pick up and run at the first sign of trouble.”

The General Assembly, in this case the audience, is the ‘supreme authority’ over the Islamic Center’s affairs, according to the center’s constitution. The constitution does not specifically say the Assembly can remove the board, but any decision voted on by the Assembly is binding, according to Didan, who is also a member of community center’s constitution committee.

Before the meeting started, president Jamil Anouti was asked by an audience member if the minimum number of people were present to constitute a General Assembly and if the meeting’s decisions would be binding. Anouti said yes.

He and public relations coordinator Ali Rustempasic declined an interview.

El-Aloosy said all of the board members, including himself and Houssam Eljerdi, the only two board members that stayed, lost their positions.

The ICT Membership Committee, which the board recently formed and then abruptly dissolved, was reinstated by a nearly unanimous vote from the General Assembly. El-Aloosy said they’ll run the center until next month’s elections for new board members.

“Everyone on the board is a completely expired person. It’s time for them to move aside. We’re in the USA, and you can’t stay on the board forever,” Didan said. “Like in the Arab Spring, a president is removed and there’s nobody left that knows how to run the country. We don’t want the same thing here in the US, let alone in the mosque.”


5 thoughts on “Board members walk out of meeting, are voted out

  1. AA,
    I moved from Chicago last year and immediately heard from several individuals I met at Masjid and Sultan that ‘there was too much politics’. I purposely stayed away from meetings to avoid getting embroiled in any ‘politics’ or unintentionally being labeled to be part of ‘this or that group’.

    Last night I went to the meeting to know who is who and what is going on. I now have SOME idea. When some brothers opposing the BOT raised their voices, I held my cell phone up and jokingly said “This is muslim Unity. It will be on YouTube!” That obviously made some mad at me! I meant to invite brothers to think about our dealings with each other. I apologize!! I also invite everyone to think: Just what if someone does record this whole meeting and pblished on Youtube? We will be mad, but for what? Becuase someone publishes it on YT or because what it contains? After all, no one will be mad if someone publishes a video of our Eid gathering SHOWING our positive side! So, why not tackle the real issue: no matter what the issue, lets go by some standards.

    I observation is this:
    – There is something that current Administration is doing that is disliked or disagreed by some others (we fight our fiqh, we fight over who is getting his say heard and implemented, etc)
    – I dont know over what issues, if any, there is a difference between Administration and those who oppose them. I can just hope that those issue are real issues
    – I think perhaps opposing group feels that they are being snubbed (?)
    – I believe that registering over 200+ members in one shot right before the election does raise questions and intentions. I have no doubt about Br Belal’s intentions. (He is one of the first ones I met here and bought my car from him!). However with a lot of respect and due excuse, I say that even if I am in the office and person walks in with 200+ forms, I would be thinking about it. I think it may have been in better ways SINCE WE KNOW HO WE ARE AND HOW WE READ BETWEEN THE LINES! If same number of people (200+) may have applied for the membership over a period of several months and on their own (even if they had to get membership money from someone), it would not have been an issue.
    – Doing such meetings openly is a recipe to push young brothers and sisters away from the center AND Islam. My own children think Muslims are horrible, backwards, uncivilized and no wonder they get kicked around. (As part of my struggle to show them the bright side, I am taking them to LA this weekend to Science fair displaying achievements by Muslims). But what younger generating SEES is what will SHAPE their thinking about us and our faith.
    – ‘Leaders’ should ‘lead’ the community towards better ways wether in official positions or not. Shouting matches and getting ‘technical’ with each other does not solve issues; it raise more.
    – If you dont think enough, your ‘solution’ will be your next problem!

    Lastly, I have an honest suggestion: Two or three individuals from the Administration and same number from those who disagree with the administration should have the heart to contact the other side and offer them to come over for dinner. Talk all that you have to over the dinner and out as ONE Community!

    In our petty issues and petty style, I try not to mention Quran (it shows as if we really care!) howver if Allah asks non believers to come to what we have in common: Ibadah of One God…, why cant we, the belivers, come together? How long are we going to screw the commnity in the name of being better than others…holier than thou!

    Did i offend anyone? I ask you to pardon me in advance and ask Allah to forgive me.

  2. Thank you brother for sharing your views. The root of the problem is clinging to power at all cost and by all means, everything else is its byproduct. This is true everywhere by the way.

  3. Assalamualaykum,
    Thank you Br.Irfan for your comments.
    I won’t go into most of the issues you outlined simply because there is a lot of detail and information that goes into many of these issues and arguing semantics and creating fitnah is not what any of us are interested in.

    Regarding the issue of the submission of membership forms in a one-time lump sum by former BOT member Bilal Aloosy, it is important to note all guidelines and proper etiquette were followed in this action.
    1. A membership drive took place starting months before the December 31st deadline by many individuals via word of mouth as well as the internet. The membership was an indiscriminate and open drive geared toward ALL members of our community with no incentive other than to give members of our community a greater sense of involvment in the affairs and activities of the Islamic Center of Tucson. Many of the membership applications were passed out to anyone that was interested in registering after Friday Prayers for many weeks. Members stood outside the doors of the masjid and handed out membership forms to anyone that was interested in filling out a form and everyone was instructed that there was a $20 membership that they were to pay if they were able to do so (important note: it was agreed upon from the beginning that anyone unable to pay the $20 form fee would receive a waiver, but this was of course redacted later on). Individuals interested in becoming ICT members were also informed that if they were NOT able to afford this $20 fee, their bid to become a functioning member of the ICT would be covered by donations from current members of the ICT. In short, the debate/controversy over the mass submission of new member applications with all payments included and necessary information detailed is nonsensical as every procedure was followed accordingly and no one’s application was turned away based on affiliation, creed, race, sex, views, or idealogy. It was a fair membership drive fueled by the help of many people from all corners of our community and was all-inclusive.
    2.The hang-up over minute details on the application forms themselves is very concerning to a large number of people in our community. One reason was that many people did not feel comfortable listing sensitive information on a paper form and submitting the form to an office that has zero security systems/measures in place to ensure everyone’s personal details would be kept safe. These fears were proven true when soliciting phone calls were made to many individuals looking to become members questioning the lack of complete information on the application form (i.e. absence of driver license number, address, etc.). Another reason there was concern was these measures were seen as not only discriminatory, but unneeded and pointless. Why do I need to give the ICT my driver license number on a form to become a member? We were never told. Why can I not just prove my identity at the time of registration with my I.D. ensuring my information would not be available to just about anyone? We were never told. Furthermore, considering the large number of individuals seeking to become members within such a short period of time, assigning one person (the office manager) to carry out this task is a DESIGNED AND PLANNED failure of epic proportions and is exactly why a membership committee should have been formed many months ago, so that these petty issues would not have been so prevalent. Even more concerning than the late formation of this committee was the last-minute dissolution of this critical committee after there was a general consensus among many esteemed and respected members of the community over a week before that a committee was needed and would be formed to solve these issues. This committee was assigned to solve and accept ALL memberships (with no $1000 right-to-vote fee) and make the ICT membership list available to everyone and anyone. How is it acceptable in some peoples mind’s that the former board of trustees only have access to the membership list (and a few select members at that) when elections are upcoming? That’s like President Obama picking and choosing which votes count and which ones don’t in this year’s election. Ludicrous. Transparency is key!

    It should be made clear that we are all doing our best and striving to achieve success in building our community for the sake of Allah because we have so many people suffering due to the slow evolution of the basic foundations for a sustainable and well-to-do community.

    It should also be noted that we ALL have flaws in certain aspects of our being and we should accept this fact in order to facilitate the coming together of talented and successful Muslims in order to build something that is the sum of our parts. There is nothing personal between us. A disagreement or shouting match (or even 10) does not change this fact. We are all participating and lending a hand (or thought) in order to receive *ajer* (reward) from Allah SWT. Friday, February 18th was a chance for people to express their concerns, which were over the blatant stalling regarding the new membership applications from long-time and newer members of the Southern Arizona Muslim Community. The resistance against allowing these voices to be heard led to the situation that unfolded last night (which in truth was very mild to some others I have seen in various different communities).

    I won’t bother get into some of the other issues regarding new member registration in the past and present by various individuals. Though there are credible reports outlining and displaying the blatant hypocrisy of many of the former board members regarding recruiting uninvolved people solely to earn votes in the March election, I will not expand on them because I feel that there is no reason to cause anymore strife than is already present. We know that certain individuals were recruiting voters based on affliation in years past and present and we know new memberships were still being sought after well beyond the application submission deadline (December 31st, 2011). It doesn’t matter much because it clearly has no effect on the actions of the former members of the BOT.

    Until we all: (this is for all of us)
    -Start speaking honestly
    -Start confronting the issues, especially the fact that applications are being left as is (pending) due to worries over losing the election by former BOT members
    -Stop working for our own self-interests
    -Realize we all have our faults and we should do what we do best to the best of our abilities without excluding anyone from the masjid or masjid decisions,
    we will not be able to move forward and establish a foundation that can and will lead to prosperity and good for Muslims and non-Muslims alike for years to come.

    -Just a kid interested in what is best for Muslims near and far.

  4. Once i read this in a history book:
    Once a commander of Sultan Slalahuddin Ayyubi found him in the thicket of war. He approached him and said, “My dear Sultan, you should not be all alone fighting like this. If something should happen to you (you die!), who will protect Islam?”

    Upon this, Ayyubi got angry at that commander and said, “Who do you think was protecting Islam before me?”

    Each one of us as individual is nothing. Islam does not rest upon any of us. I just hope and inshaAllah pray that respected elders of the community can just make bold decisions breaking the walls and joining the hearts…

  5. Pingback: Chatter: Social Media and the ICT Elections | The Tucson Minaret

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s