Baraka, Anderson sued by Imam alleging religious discrimination

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on December 16, 2014

In this 2012 photo, Mustafa El-Amin, Imam of Masjid Ibrahim of Newark; speaks to the media as he arrives for a meeting between law enforcement officials and members of the NJ Muslim community in Trenton.

 

NEWARK — A Newark Imam and former special education teacher at Central High School filed a lawsuit against Newark Public Schools and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka alleging he was denied the opportunity to attend a weekly religious service.

In a lawsuit filed Essex County Superior Court earlier this year, Mustafa El-Amin, Imam of Masjid Ibrahim in Newark, said he was transferred to Central High School in 2010 to work with autistic students.

After arriving to the school, he began to complain about the staffing levels assigned to special education students, according to the lawsuit.

He also asked for a religious accommodation, to attend to attend Al Jumu'ah, a weekly Muslim religious service, during his lunch break on Fridays, the lawsuit alleges.

But El-Amin says in his lawsuit that the then chair of the school's special education department not only denied the request but prohibited him from taking a lunch break.

Then when he appealed to then Central High School principal and current Newark mayor Ras Baraka in Oct. 2011, he was again denied the request.

In response to his complaints, El-Amin was given dissatisfactory evaluations, the lawsuit claims.

"Confronted with the Hobson's choice of missing Al Jumu'ah or forfeiting his employment, the plaintiff was forced to retire," the lawsuit said.

El-Amin said he filed the lawsuit to defend the Muslim community's right to practice its religion especially after news broke that the New York police department was spying on Muslims in New Jersey.

"Being denied just woke me up that I have other brothers and sisters that are not being allowed to practice their religion," he said.

But Baraka said politics was at work with the lawsuit. El-Amin filed his lawsuit in April, weeks before the Newark mayoral election in May, in which he had endorsed Baraka's opponent, Shavar Jeffries.

“I support democracy and the religious freedom of every single person in the City of Newark, and their right to practice that freedom in accordance with the dictates of their conscience," Baraka said in a statement.

“This lawsuit is a politically-motivated action filed by an individual who endorsed my political opponents."


El-Amin denied that the lawsuit was politically motivated, saying he filed the lawsuit this year because the statute of limitation was going to expire soon.

"I wish Mr. Ras Baraka well as Mayor of our great city of Newark and I pray that he can be successful in helping to improve the life and culture of the city and the people," El-Amin said in a statement

Records show the lawyer representing El-Amin, Ryan Linder, made donations to city council candidates that Jeffries supported in 2014.

“The election is over, but the suit is still proceeding,” Linder said.

In addition to Baraka, Newark Public Schools superintendent Cami Anderson and the Newark Board of Education were named as defendants.

Newark Public Schools responded but did not immediately comment.

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