(originally published September, 2007)
A Muslim group appears to be raising money to build what would be the Big Island’s first mosque.
The Islamic Information office of Hawaii Web site -- http://web.archive.org/web/20071009142920/http://www.iio.org/ -- describes the “Masjid Al-Baqi Project” as an elaborate plan to acquire a house on Mahilani Drive in the Kona Highlands subdivision. Kailua-Kona resident Syed Kamal Majid is the only person named in documents connected with the project.
But there are questions about the plan’s legitimacy.
The proposed mosque comes as a surprise to the seller and her listing agent. They both say the house is in escrow, but not for Majid.
The listing agent says the buyers are “a Hawaiian family” and have noting to do with any mosque plan.
The seller says, “he (Majid) has no legal rights to the house so he’s committing fraud.”
According to the listing agent, Majid was shown the house after it was in escrow, but has not presented a backup offer. She says, “All I recall is that he was trying to raise money.”
The Realtor indicated she believes the buyers will complete their purchase.
Majid’s “proposed conversions” to the house he apparently does not own are listed on his Web site. These include converting “the Loft… into a ‘lighted’ Dome and a Minaaret (sic) shall be mounted on the side of the building as a beacon to call others to prayer. A speaker system, security system and parking lot are projects that are planned for the near future.” The Web site indicates that Fajr, the first of five daily calls to submission, would be announced over the loudspeaker at 4:51 a.m. Such calls are made 5 times a day, 365 days a year.
Richard Schenkel, General Manager of the nearby Kona Palisades Homeowners Association, was unaware of the plan to turn a private residence on agricultural land into a mosque. He says, “If it is close enough that we would be disturbed by it, then we will do something.”
Rebecca Martin of Pacific Realty in Kona says she showed the Mahilani house to Majid on July 5. Says Martin, “he wanted to build a church and we were researching the special use process.” Asked if she was Majid’s realtor, Martin said, “We have not written any contracts.” She declined to answer any more questions saying “Realtors are targets” and she needed to contact Majid.
According to the Web site, there are big plans for Kona’s Islamic future. As part of the “Masjid Al-Baqi Project,” Majid is soliciting donations to “…purchase property for a Masjid as well as land for a cemetery.”
“Our plans include a Masjid, Islamic School, Cultural Center, Library, Community Outreach, Soup Kitchen and more. May Allah (swt) reward you for your efforts.”
It is not clear where any cemetery or madrassah would be planned, but one Kona Realtor believes that Majid has also looked at a vacant parcel near the Kona Highlands subdivision.
Residents of the Kona Highlands area have a long history of chasing away developments. In 2003 and 2004, community leaders blocked a private high school from building a campus on a 30-acre parcel near Kona Highlands. While traffic, noise, zoning and "concurrency" were issues, some claimed the school was connected to the “Moonie” Unification Church.
The solicitation on the IIO website gets right to the point, telling Muslims to “Mail checks to: Masjid Al-Baqi of Hawaii, Inc.”
A search of the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website shows Masjid Al-Baqi was registered February 2, 2006, as a “domestic non-profit corporation” under file number 214618 D2. “Kamal S. Majid” is listed as agent with an address on Kuakini Highway. No other person is named in the records.
The seller of the Mahilani house is not the only person with questions about the Masjid Al-Baqi scheme. An Aug. 11 comment on the IIO website from a poster identifying himself as “Rob Albertini” reads, “Before I can make any donations, please let me know the names of the board and officers of Masjid Al-Baqi.” Three weeks later, no response had been posted.
Muslims have a powerful incentive to contribute large sums of money to the construction of a mosque. Majid’s web posting quotes a Hadith: “Whoever built a Masjid, with the intention of seeking Allah’s Pleasure, Allah will build for them a similar place in Paradise.”
According to a 2007 article on the online publication DesiConnect, Majid, is currently CEO of two companies, “Orion Technologies, Inc” and “Voyage-Films.” Both are listed in New York state corporation records with Orion being founded in December 2001. Majid’s is the only name appearing in the records of either company.
Majid tells DesiConnect, “Trust me!”
Neither Majid nor officials of Honolulu’s Islamic Information Office returned calls from Hawaii Free Press.
Masjid Al-Baqi Project: http://web.archive.org/web/20071009142920/http://www.iio.org/article.php?story=20070701165828893