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Arrests for bringing weapons onto CSUN campus tied to dispute between rival Muslim groups, police say

March 15, 2011 |  7:32 am

Two security guards were arrested after Cal State Northridge police said they brought pistols to the campus Saturday evening, the latest incident in an ongoing feud between rival groups of Muslims vying for control of two San Fernando Valley mosques.

Members of the Muslim Assn. of San Fernando Valley had a permit to hold an event at one of the banquet rooms on the campus, said Capt. Scott G. Vanscoy of the Cal State Northridge Police Department. But rivals who said they were from the Islamic Center of Northridge showed up with security guards who allegedly tried to intimidate people from entering the gathering.

Fereydoun Mohajerifar, 47, of Glendale and Jose Maria Lopez, 32, of Canoga Park each were booked on suspicion of bringing a firearm on a university campus, Vanscoy said. Both men said they worked as security guards. Police were investigating whether the men worked for a security company.

Four others were removed from the campus and subjected to a weeklong stay-away order, Vanscoy said. None of the four were Cal State Northridge students or affiliated with the event at the campus banquet hall. Their names were not released.

The incident took before the event at the banquet hall when a half-dozen people were found in the parking lot late Saturday afternoon passing out flyers and attempting to serve what appeared to be court documents on members of the rival group, Vanscoy said. A threat, which was not detailed by authorities, allegedly was made to one of the members of the group in the university parking lot.

Vanscoy said police investigators have learned there was ongoing friction between the groups but that there had not been past problems involving use of CSUN facilities.

The conflict between the two rival groups escalated about a year ago. Los Angeles Police Department officers have been called several times to each of the rival groups' mosques and have taken reports on accusations of battery, witness intimidation, trespassing, verbal threats and disturbing the peace but no criminal charges were filed in any of those cases.

In January, The Times detailed the bitter dispute between the two sides, each made up mainly of Pakistani and Afghan immigrants who are battling in court over leadership elections and greater openness at the Granada Hills mosque and an older satellite center in Northridge.

The fight has gotten increasingly bitter as both sides have engaged in heated rhetoric, including which group is more American in dress, accent and behavior. The parties also have traded accusations of radicalism as each side tries to discredit the other.

Defendants in the court case are the Islamic Center's two imams, Qazi Fazlullah and Qari Yousuf, along with board members and supporters, many of whom emigrated from Afghanistan or Pakistan's Pashtun region. The plaintiffs are mainly from Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, and from the country's Punjab region.

A dissident group accuses the mosque leaders in a lawsuit of methods that "resemble Taliban-style tactics one might presume to exist only outside the boundaries of the United States."

The suit also quotes a threatening, profane voicemail message it says was left for one of the plaintiffs, in which the caller allegedly said, "Don't … with us. We are Pashtuns. We will kill you."

-- Andrew Blankstein and Robert J. Lopez