From the Culver City News (June 3, 2004):  


By Roger Angle

The King Fahad Mosque couldn’t be in a more American setting. Across the street from a 7-Eleven convenience store and a Christian church, it also sits kitty-corner from a gun shop.

Neighbors could be forgiven if they were suspicious of the swarthy men flocking to the Culver City location, at Huron Avenue and Washington Boulevard. After all, the mosque was paid for by the Saudi royal family, to the tune of more than $10 million. And we’ve all heard stories of mosques in foreign countries and even in New Jersey being involved in terrorist planning.

Local observers have been known to speculate that the mosque might be a center of anti-American sentiment or have members who were sympathetic to terrorists or even terrorists themselves.

But according to various civic and religious leaders, and officials of the mosque itself, nothing could be further from the truth.

Doris W. Davis, president of the Culver City Area Interfaith Alliance, said, “We are doing what we need to do to establish mutual respect and understanding. You can’t understand someone if you don’t know them.”

Davis, who is also the administrator at Westside Unity church, “got really involved” in this interfaith effort after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Davis attended a worship service at the mosque, performing the ceremonial washing of the feet and hands and sitting through prayers and a sermon. She and other civic and religious leaders have been to the mosque a number of times, met with its people, and worked on various projects together. The Interfaith Alliance was created by a city proclamation, which got a lot of these efforts started.

Davis said the mosque “is just another house of worship and it is very welcome in Culver City.”

Not only do the mosque’s leaders meet with other religions regularly, they are also working to bring to life Daniel Jacoby’s dream.

Jacoby was co-founder of the dot-com company Digital Insight, which pioneered the computer technology used in online banking. A Malibu resident, Jacoby had terminal brain cancer. Before he died, in March, at the age of 38, his dream was to set up a summer camp for children of all religions. The camp, “Interfaith Inventions,” is expected to take place for the first time in New Mexico this coming summer. Usman Madha, director of public relations for the mosque, expects the camp to be active next year, 2005, here in California “and all over the country.”

Davis thinks the summer camp, a broad interfaith effort to prevent stereotyping and prejudice, is an important project.

Madha, who works closely with Davis on the Interfaith Alliance, recently returned from a visit to Istanbul. In a separate interview, he described a religious center there with a mosque, a Jewish temple and a Christian church all in one compound.

“From a distance,” said Madha, gesturing with his hands and smiling, “you can see the minaret and the cross on the church spire and the symbol of Judaism, and they have been there for centuries, coexisting happily. They even celebrate each other’s religious holidays.”

Madha and other local religious leaders suggested that is what they are trying to accomplish with the summer camp and with the interfaith efforts in Culver City.

Pastor James S. Maines, of Grace Lutheran Church, at Overland and Franklin avenues, has nothing but positive feelings for the mosque and its leaders.

“I had my own misgivings,” said Pastor Jim, as he is known among his parishioners. “But they have come to our interfaith meetings and hosted them at the mosque, and they have come to the interfaith picnic. Usman Madha came with his family. I wasn’t expecting that, and I was very pleased and impressed. Everyone from the mosque has been very open and supportive” of the city’s interfaith efforts.

Maines understands that residents of the city might be suspicious of the mosque. But they should not be too quick to cast stones. “’Judge not lest ye be judged’,” he said, quoting the Bible.

Hostility among people of different faiths is regrettable, Maines added. “I believe it saddens the heart of God in Heaven.”

City Council member Carol A. Gross went to a service at the mosque on the first Friday after the terrorists attacks on 9-11.

“It just happened on the spur of the moment,” she said. “I knew a woman from the mosque who was at a meeting at city hall, and she said she was going to the service, so I said why don’t I go with you.

“They didn’t know I was there, that a council member was there, until after the meeting. Sheik Tajuddin Shuaib was very outspoken about the terrorist attacks. He said it was against the Koran, and he gave references.

“He spoke against suicide. He said if you come too soon to Heaven, Allah will say he does not know you, and you should not be here yet, and he will banish you to the outer darkness forever.

“He said the Koran forbids violence, especially against innocent people, and against women and children, and against the disabled. You are not to harm one tree, or pollute one stream. So those attacks were far beyond the bounds of the Koran.

“One man in the crowd spoke out loudly and nastily against the U.S. for supporting for the way the Israelis were treating the Palestinians. And they threw him out of the mosque. I mean a group of men gathered around him and bodily escorted him out.

“A few hours later that same man, a Palestinian, was arrested for cutting the hands off a statue at St. Augustine’s Church, over on Washington across from Sony.”

The atmosphere around the mosque was tense after the terrorists attacks.

“The day after 9-11,” Gross said, “they found a cardboard box outside the mosque. They called the police, and everyone was very afraid, and the bomb squad came. But you know what was inside? Flowers. With a note from the neighborhood children.

“I think these people were saying, ‘We’re not blaming you for what some yo-yos did in New York on 9-11’.”

Gross feels that members of the mosque are truly part of the community. “I think Culver City is more of a melting pot than people realize. And I think there are many misconceptions out there. The more you see of these people, the more you sit and talk to them, the more you realize that they are just folks like the rest of us.”

Father Ramón Palomera, associate pastor at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church said of the mosque and its members, “We are all the sons and daughters of God, and we are all searching for happiness, and we find our happiness in our faith.”

Asked about any possible suspicions by people in Culver City, Sheik Shuaib said, “We are far, far from being terrorists. We had a meeting with the FBI, and I told them, ‘I may not wear the badge, but I would be the first person to inform on any individual that I knew who was plotting a terrorist act’.”

He added, “Fear is a very dangerous thing. And it is mostly fear of the unknown. We welcome anybody to come here any time and meet us and get to know us and see what we do.”

Shuaib also said, “These fanatics (the terrorists) destroy Islam. And they make it very hard for me to do my job, which is to spread the word and tell people what Islam is all about.”

The issue of religious tolerance is important to Doris Davis, who is studying to become an interfaith minister. She wants to provide spiritual counseling to people from a broad spectrum of religions, an effort that she said is central to her life. “I think it’s time we stopped killing each other in the name of God.”


Angle was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize his first year as a reporter. He helped several newspapers win state-wide awards. For seven years, he was a reporter and editor for The Newport Ensign, in Newport Beach, CA. Before that, he worked at the Wichita (KS) Beacon, and the York (PA) Gazette And Daily.