The complicated additional naming of Van Houten Street was resolutely put to rest during Tuesday evening’s city council meeting, where council members unanimously voted in favor of calling a section of that street: Jalalabad Street.
The section of Van Houten Street between Curtis Place and Main Street was originally slated to be called Alhaj Forman Ali Street after an early Bangladeshi immigrant who lent his basement as a prayer place prior to the establishment of the Islamic Foundation of New Jersey, a mosque on that street, but that was changed after mosque officials objected to the naming.
Hannan Hussian, president of Jalalabad Jam-E-Masjid, the mosque established by the aforementioned foundation, said in September his organization was not informed of the naming until it had passed. The additional naming resolution was passed with a great deal of reservation in the council in early August. Once the mosque understood that Forman Ali was erroneously being credited with the founding of the mosque they began sending letters to council members with founding documents proving their argument.
After lobbying failed, mosque officials filed a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming the town was violating their first amendment. That lawsuit was nullified when the city voted to rescind the original naming resolution. In the interim, officials from the mosque and family members of Forman Ali engaged in verbal theater at the council chamber to persuade the council onto their side.
The family which was adamantly uncompressing at first gave ground, and reached a compromise brokered by council members behind the scene. That compromise stipulated that the street naming happen, while Forman Ali, whose Piercy Street address was documented in the foundation’s charter, be honored as well. The new resolution which was passed last week does just that. “Both sides of this ended up reaching a compromise,” said Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large, who played a role in brokering a compromise between the parties.
By calling the roadway Jalalabad Street the council is honoring the mosque and Forman Ali with a clause inside the resolution mentioning his role in the establishment of the mosque. Jalalabad is also a region in Bangladesh named after Shah Jalal, an 11th century Arab Muslim theologian, who, after being educated in Mecca, traveled east, eventually arriving in what is now called Bangladesh.
Akkas Ali, the son of Forman Ali, and a group of the deceased’s extended family, were present at the council meeting. Andre Sayegh, the council president and 6th Ward councilman, read a bit of the resolution and exclaimed, “We pay proper tribute to a pioneer,” to the silent approval of the son.