Islamic School Is Accused of Bias

Times Staff Writer

An African American woman dismissed as principal of an Islamic elementary school in Garden Grove is suing the school and its board, alleging she was the target of racism and bigotry rooted in a long-standing rift between black and immigrant Muslims.

Zakiyyah Muhammad said her ouster was orchestrated by the school board’s new Pakistani-born president and others who disapproved of her race, heritage and gender.

She had been principal of the Orange Crescent School for five years before she was let go two weeks into the current school year.


The suit, filed this week, names Fazal Mirza, president of the Orange Crescent school board and member of the Majlis-e-Shura of the Islamic Society, and Refat Abodia, treasurer of the school.

She is also suing the school and the Islamic Society of Orange County.

The complaint describes the dismissal as “an ugly incident of racial and sexual bigotry” by the male officers of the Islamic Society, “all men of Pakistani or Arab descent.”

Mirza and other Orange County Muslim officials could not be reached for comment.

“The only reason that she was unceremoniously ushered out the door is that Dr. Mirza would not work with a principal who was an African American, a member of the indigenous Muslim community in the U.S., and a woman who was not willing to be completely submissive,” the lawsuit says.

Muhammad was hired in 1998 to oversee a staff of 43 at Crescent School. The school has 400 students representing 28 ethnicities.


In May 2003, outgoing president Rubina Chaudhary and other school board members approved a two-year contract extension with a bonus, increasing Muhammad’s salary to $65,000 annually, the lawsuit says.

But Mirza soon launched a campaign to force her out, the lawsuit says.

Laura Lee Blake, the attorney representing Muhammad, said her client tried to resolve her dismissal through the Council on Islamic Education.

The council found that the decision to dismiss her was hasty, unethical and violated a number of Islamic principles.