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Judge rules Muslim group can keep mosque in Carlton

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 June 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers  – Bilal Huzair, deputy director for the World Sufi Foundation, sits on the front steps of the group’s mosque on Fuller Road in Carlton.

CARLTON – A State Supreme Court justice has ruled the World Sufi Foundation can keep its mosque on Fuller Road and another site used for medical services on Waterport Road.

The ex-wife of the Sufi Foundation’s minister, Dr. Asaf Durakovic, claimed in a lawsuit that the properties were fraudulently transferred to the World Sufi Foundation.

The World Sufi Foundation argued in court that the properties were bought by the group and have been maintained by members. The sites are not a personal asset of Dr. Durakovic, the group told Judge James Punch.

The properties were titled in the name of Durakovic because he was the senior minister when the World Sufi Foundation was incorporated. Title to the properties was transferred automatically once the World Sufi Foundation was incorporated in 2004, the group said in court filings.

Punch, in a decision dated on Thursday, said Durakovic held title to the properties in Waterport, but he had no “beneficial interest” in these assets. He merely held them “as the titular head of the Sufi World Foundation,” Punch wrote in his decision.

The site at 1815 Waterport Rd. has been used a medical clinic and the property at 1529 Fuller Rd. has been primarily used as a meeting place for prayers and ceremonies.

Punch’s decision follows a similar conclusion by a Canadian Court, which found the properties were not part of the Durakovic’s and his former wife’s marital estate.

This site on Fuller Road has been used for prayers and services by the local Muslim community.

The judge made his decision on Thursday and the Sufi Foundation was notified of it in mail on Monday.

That followed almost a week of public demonstrations, including an interfaith rally on Sunday outside the courthouse, seeking religious protections for all faiths.

Bilal Huzair, a member of the Sufi Foundation, said the group is relieved the case is over and it can continue to use the sites.

Huzair stopped by the mosque on Fuller Road today. He said the site has been used by the local Muslim community for 37 years for prayers, services and other special events. The site is in a rural area along a dirt road. Huzair said the community enjoys the peacefulness of the location.

“Someone is always here praying or just enjoying it,” he said.

The mosque has a symbol near the front door that means “He is.” The property also has many trees, and each member has planted at least one.

“It’s giving thanks to God,” he said about all the trees.

Huzair said the Muslim community appreciates the support from other people in the community, especially at the interfaith rally on Sunday, when people stood in a downpour.

The pastors of the First Presbyterian Church in Albion and Pullman Memorial Universalist Church were part of that rally, as well as the Social Justice Committee from the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Albion and other religious groups from outside Albion.

“There were members from different churches who joined us in the pouring rain,” Huzair said.

He is hopeful the religious people can continue to build a strong interfaith community in Orleans County and the region.