religion alawys brings out the best in people!

Muslims clash over glut of liquor stores Alcohol against faith, vandals say

Justin M. Norton Associated Press Jan. 15, 2006 12:00 AM

OAKLAND - They weren't your ordinary thugs.

Dressed in bow ties and dark suits, nearly a dozen men carrying metal pipes entered a corner store, shattered refrigerator cases and smashed bottles of liquor, terrifying the clerk but stealing nothing.

The just wanted to leave a message: Stop selling alcohol to fellow Muslims.

Friction between poor residents and immigrant store owners is nothing new. Neither are complaints that neighborhoods are glutted with markets that sell alcohol and contribute to violent crime, vagrancy and other social ills.

But the attack at San Pablo Liquor and an identical vandalism spree at another West Oakland store later that evening, along with an arson fire there and the kidnapping of the owner a few days later, have injected religion into the debate.

The two episodes highlighted tensions, and different interpretations of the Quran, between Black Muslims in this crime-ridden city of 400,000 and Middle Eastern shop owners, many of them Muslims.

Six men connected to a bakery founded by a prominent Black Muslim family have been arrested in the Nov. 23 attacks, which were caught on store security cameras. In both instances, the vandals asked store clerks why they were selling alcohol when it was against the Muslim faith.

One of the men arrested on charges that included hate crimes and vandalism was 19-year-old Yusuf Bey IV. His father, Yusuf Bey, who died in 2003, founded Your Black Muslim Bakery, which sells Malcolm X books and baked goods.

The younger Bey was arrested after police identified him as one of the men in the video. Bey's attorney, Lorna Brown, suggested that Bey was a victim of mistaken identity. But she also said the vandalism has prompted discussions in the Black community.

"I think it's pretty clear that the number of these stores in low-income communities is not good for people," she said.

San Pablo market owner Abdul Saleh, who has kept his store open after the attacks, said his decision to sell alcohol is "between me and God."

"We're just coming here to make a living like anyone else," he said.

Community leaders have targeted the glut of corner markets selling fortified wine, malt liquor and cheap alcohol as one of the most pressing problems in Oakland, where roughly 16 percent of families live below the poverty line.

West Oakland, a predominantly Black and poor section of the city where the vandalism took place, has 69 stores selling alcohol, 28 above the maximum number under a state standard that prescribes no more than one store for every 2,500 residents, according to Urban Strategies Council.

Mohamed Saleh Mohamed, president of the Yemeni American Grocers Association, said that before Middle Eastern immigrants started buying corner stores in the 1980s, they offered nothing but alcohol. The merchants began to sell produce and other food, he said. "We're the easiest targets for community blame," he said.

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