California mosque fires anti-US cleric

The Lodi Muslim mosque in California has fired a religious leader accused of speaking out against the US and supporting Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

    The cleric is accused of preaching attacks on Americans

    Shabbir Ahmed is one of two imams detained on immigration charges as part of an FBI investigation into alleged terrorist activities in Lodi's Islamic community.


    One imam's son also faces deportation to Pakistan. The father and son, both US citizens, are charged with lying to federal investigators about whether the son attended an alleged terrorist training camp in Pakistan.


    The mosque's board of directors unanimously voted to fire Ahmed, 39, in a special session on Sunday night, said Mohammed Shoaib, the mosque's president.


    No more problems


    Ahmed "can go someplace else, because we do not want more problems here", Shoaib said. "We don't want that kind of person who has spoken against the United States."


    At a hearing on Friday, Ahmed denied making any speeches against the US Justice Department.


    Attorney Paul Nishiie argued in court last Friday that Ahmed should not be released on bail, saying he was linked to a terrorist group in Karachi, Pakistan, and had preached about attacking Americans a few months after the 11 September 2001 attacks.


    Immigration complaints


    Ahmed was brought to Lodi in 2002 by Muhammed Adil Khan, the second imam held on immigration complaints. His son, Mohammad Hassan Adil, also is being held.


    Ahmed was said to have been an
    Osama bin Laden supporter

    Shoaib and mosque board member Malik Ahmad said Ahmed lost the support of many mosque members after he and Adil Khan started a regional school known as the Farooqia Islamic Centre.


    Adil Khan orchestrated the removal of a previous Lodi imam and installed his protege, Ahmed, as the mosque's leader, the men said.


    The mosque continued paying Adil Khan's salary even though he was primarily working for the centre.


    Shoaib said that project had concerned him since he became president in November 2003.


    The mosque is suing the centre over its financing.


    Visa violations


    Adil Khan and Ahmed are being held on allegations they violated terms of their religious visas, which allowed them to remain in the US on condition they serve as religious leaders.


    Shoaib acknowledged he filled out an immigration form saying that Adil Khan was not an official imam. It is unclear how Ahmed's firing will affect his case.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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