The two disputing parties from the Bangladeshi community – mosque officials, against the street naming; family members of Alhaj Forman Ali, for the street naming – filled the City Council chamber on Tuesday evening to voice their grievances to elected officials.
Family members contested that the mosque officials were committing an injustice against them by resigning their forefather out of the honor of having a street named after him. In an emotional courtroom like testimony, a granddaughter of Forman Ali said, “None of them,” referring to mosque officials, “were here when my grandfather was here.”
Officials from the mosque claim that Forman Ali’s name does not exist in the records. Saleh Ghani, secretary at the mosque, said what he informed this paper last Saturday, mainly that, after checking records going back to the founding of the Islamic Foundation of New Jersey there is no mention of Forman Ali.
Ghani also asserted that changing the street’s name and placing the deceased former patriarch of a family on the street sign amounts to the mosque being a place only for that family rather than for the entire community.
Abdul Hya, a nephew of the deceased, standing outside the chamber, said, “My uncle started that mosque. The mosque started in his basement.” The nephew said, his uncle was staying at 23 Piercy Street, where a small group of Muslims gathered to offer prayer, five times a day, because at the time there were no mosques in the area. In the certificate of incorporation for the foundation an address is listed: 23 Piercy Street.
Both parties do agree on Forman Ali holding congregational prayers in his basement. Hya nondescriptly said, much of the problem surrounding the street naming controversy arose as a result of community in-fighting, and his uncle just happened to be a victim in that conflict.
Hannan Hussian, the current president of the mosque, maintained his position saying, “I don’t see any records with this person’s name.” Five individuals from each side spoke in front of the council to make-known their grievances for and against the street naming, after which others joined in on the conversation.
“This is all because of this councilman,” said Aslon Goow, blaming Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, the 2nd Ward councilman. Goow also blamed Andre Sayegh, the council president, saying, “You opened up a mess here. You know what council president: I’m going to single you out, as the council president, because you orchestrated this whole thing.” Goow suggested that the resolution should have been sorted out by Mr Sayegh before it came to a vote.
Council members, who listened to a great deal of what both parties had to say, wanted nothing to do with this knotty problem. Rigo Rodriguez, councilman at-large, who initially voted to rename that section of Van Houten Street between Main Street and Curtis Place, complained that he was “deceived.” He requested that the resolution be rolled back, in other words, go back to the time prior to the resolutions passage.
Other council members addressed the community telling it to not air its dirty laundry in the public. “It will be a disservice to the Paterson community, and the Bangladeshi community, to have this continue, and to have it aired out on TV, for our entire community to see,” said Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large, who suggested to both parties to come to some sort of a mutual understanding to conclude the matter.
“This community is being politicized,” said Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman. “I think that’s going to be an issue for your community.” The resolution to rescind the street naming will be on next week’s regular meeting agenda, where it will either pass — cancelling the naming — or it will fail — keeping the changed street name.