Allah Drops In

The Christian right tries to muscle a Pompano Beach Islamic congregation.

Ali, a 41-year-old father of two, came to Florida from Guyana after high school because, he says, his native land had just one university. He attended Florida International University and went to work for the Florida Department of Children and Families. One of his formative moments at his organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was watching the arrest and trial of an off-kilter Pinellas County podiatrist who had plotted to blow up Islamic centers as revenge for 9/11. The Muslim community was too politically weak, Ali felt, to rally public support after that threat. He resolved to make Muslims more visible in Florida.

Last November, Broward County Mayor Ben Graber appointed Ali to the county's Diversity Advisory Council, which advises commissioners and the public about cultural and ethnic issues.

Dozier's and Ali's discussion that not only shed little light on the question of a Pompano construction project but also threatened to veer into surrealism.

Muslim rights advocate Altaf Ali took umbrage with Pompano pastor O'Neal Dozier's (next image) insistence that Islam is "a cult."
Colby Katz
Muslim rights advocate Altaf Ali took umbrage with Pompano pastor O'Neal Dozier's (next image) insistence that Islam is "a cult."
Pompano pastor O'Neal Dozier
Brude R. Bennett
Pompano pastor O'Neal Dozier

"Jesus never told me to live by Old Testament standards," Dozier told Ali, explaining the superiority of Christianity. "He told me to live by New Testament standards. So that's what I do as a Christian. And my Christianity does not run planes into World Trade buildings. My Jesus don't do that."

"What about the Crusaders?" Ali said.

"And your god, Allah, is not my god," Dozier continued.

"You see, that's how you're ignorant," Ali replies. "Allah is the Arabic word for God."

"No, it's not! It's a moon god!" Dozier said.

"It's a moon god!" called someone from the crowd.

"The Arabic word for —," Ali tried again.

"It's a moon god!" Dozier said.

Ali, for his part, makes a formidable opponent in this sort of sparring. A former social worker who as a guardian ad litem represented children in court for the Florida Department of Children and Families, Ali started the state's first chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Pembroke Pines after 9/11 put a damper on Americans' relationships with Muslims.

"Do you know that Christians in Arabia praise Allah?" Ali replied.

All the while, news cameras and microphones swirled around the men. The noise from the crowd grew as latecomers jammed against one another and began little squabbles of their own.

Dozier was just getting rolling.

"Did Muhammad start his religion off by cutting off the heads of 700 Jewish men and taking their wives and giving their wives — " Dozier asked.

"Sir," Ali tried to interrupt.

"... as concubines — " Dozier continued.


"... of the Muslims?"

"You said — "

"... and did he take their money? And did he take their money —"

"Reverend. Reverend."

"... to help finance other holy wars that he was going to fight in the name of Allah?"

"Reverend," Ali said, "you said that Islam's a cult. That's wrong."

After ten minutes of this dance, with the men keeping their smiles, they came together in the sort of prolonged handshake associated with the familiar menace of Mafia dons. They began to exchange unpleasant pleasantries.

"Let me just make this clear...," Dozier said. "I love you as a creature of God."

Ali brushed off the dubious gesture of amity. "Your congregation's going to suffer because they're the ones who are going to have to carry your rhetoric on their shoulders."

"No, no they're not," Dozier replied. "They're carried by Jesus. I speak for Jesus Christ."

Off to the side of this fracas, a man with heavy eyes and round cheeks leaned against a sedan. He held a sign that read, "Single Family Homes." This was Dr. John Mohorn of the Word of the Living God Ministries, perhaps a foot shorter than Dozier and a hundred decibels quieter.

"My goal period is single family homes, nothing else," he said. "I don't come against no man religious. Whatever he believe, he believe. But I'm here for the best interests in the community, and we need single family homes. And that's it. Like I say, it ain't got nothing to do with hate; it ain't got nothing to do with religion. It's about the need of the community."

The neighborhood around the site for the new mosque, near NW 15th Street and Andrews Avenue, is an anomaly in Broward County. For one, it incorporates one of the rare industrial sections still inhabiting the east-central part of the county, north of Fort Lauderdale's slowly gentrifying northern edge, east of the manicured white-flight suburbs such as Coconut Creek, and south of the conspicuous consumption of Boca Raton. Two miles west, beyond Florida's Turnpike, subdivisions intertwine with golf courses and water hazards.

The mosque's current home in northwest Pompano is decidedly more humble, as 54-year-old congregation member Joe Harris will tell you. A paunchy, salty-bearded real-estate agent who grew up in a nearby neighborhood nicknamed Collier City, Harris pulls up to his Pompano office in a beat-up white pickup truck with what looks like clothesline holding up its back bumper. The "check engine soon" light on his dash is lit orange. The tidy truck cab smells of jasmine. He drives past the site of the proposed mosque, now just an overgrown field beside Markham Elementary School. He continues to the end of the block and turns north on Andrews Avenue. On his right looms a concrete plant; to his left sprawl choppy, scrubby fields strewn with piles of debris — tiles, couches, toilets, paint buckets, tires — apparently dumped frequently and illegally.

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