Imam reminds opposition to future mosque they worship the same God, while conservative groups distance themselves

For the past 12 years Southwest Riverside County’s Muslim community has worshiped in peace, in a building in Temecula’s business center hidden in the outskirts of the city. Their presence has gone mostly unnoticed, but when a public hearing was announced, the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley or ICTV, would build a nearly 25,000 square-foot mosque on a parcel of land on Nicolas Road and Calle Medusa in Temecula, a call to protest was dispersed through the Internet. The rally was set for June 30th and would coincide with the center’s regularly scheduled call to prayer. On Friday about a dozen protesters heeded the call.

The Protested

The spiritual leader of ICTV, Imam Mahmoud Harmoush, a 20-year resident of California and professor at Cal State San Bernardino is credited with establishing the center over a decade ago.

“There were about 25-30 families, and now we have 150 families,” he said.

Harmoush sees the need for the center as nothing out of the ordinary and compares their need to other religious groups in the area that have outgrown their places of worship.

“As you see this place is a warehouse, it’s not really suited for our religious services at large and we are growing a little bigger and our children needed safe and interesting place like a backyard and grounds and so forth,” he says.

According to Harmoush there have been a few incidents of intolerance and says it’s nothing any place of worship in the area, or any other area for that matter, haven’t seen. He calls living in Southwest Riverside County “wonderful”.

“We have always been welcomed, the people (Temecula, Murrieta residents) are loving and supportive and have not really experienced any negativities,” he said.

Harmoush, who is also a member of the Interfaith Council of Murrieta and Temecula, is proud of the work they do at the ICTV, which he says includes helping those in need. A few years ago, giving to those in crisis meant reaching into their pockets to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, lately, because of the economic downturn, it’s closer to home and a lot more common.

“People are struggling to make ends meet,” he says. “Providing for those families in need, whether Muslims or not has been a priority for the center, that’s where our energy and focus should be right now.”

Harmoush was disheartened when he heard the news that people were planning to protest their building project, one, he says, his followers have worked hard for. When it comes building issues with the mosque, he looks to the City of Temecula for guidance, whose procedures he describes as very thorough, which is why he doesn’t understand the sudden uproar.

“We’ve owned the land for the past 10 years. We thought we better develop it and our people put in dollar after dollar to build that place,” he said. “And now, all of a sudden, after 2 years of engineering and following and meeting with the city planning commission and rules and regulations they gave us, the appointment for the public hearing, and all of a sudden people are standing against this project and really there is no practical, justifiable reason.”

We The People, the group that originally organized the protest, have posted messages on their website saying they will not tolerate Sharia Law, or radicals. Harmoush insists that the Muslims at the center have nothing in common with radical extremists and that he and the group are being accused of being what he preaches against and denounces. He says Muslims that adhere to practices that call for the killing of innocents and oppression of women, are following ancient laws and teachings that do not apply in modern times. He felt the community in Temecula had come together after the September 11, 2001 attacks but as a whole, the terrorist attacks have set the community back.

“These events were devastating to Muslims, because we are all labeled as somehow responsible for that,” he said. “This is a condemned act of violence, worldwide. Muslims in North America and we here community of Temecula condemn that act and any act that destroys human life and property.”

He shared that a friend of his was murdered because he was thought to be a Muslim Arab, he was Egyptian and a Christian.

“After that things became a little bit tight, because everyone with different accents, different looks, different faiths have become almost suspect,” he said.

Harmoush believes that politics is behind the recent wave of hate.

“Some movements, that lately, started popping-up in to the political and social scene seem like they want to get busy with somebody,” he says. “And they find whoever is vulnerable in the society and they will hit on them whether the scapegoat is the Muslim, the immigration issue, or maybe the health care plan or whatever is out there that they can criticize and make a move.”

When asked, if the shoe were on the other foot, would he be afraid, he answered, “We shouldn’t be afraid, we are in a country of democratic values and freedom,” adding, “we , our children and all communities should be free to worship God and committing themselves to the good values of our society and country. People who are practicing such harassment and intimidation, they should be concerned that they are violating the constitution.”

Harmoush asserts their record speaks for itself and says the center has always preached inclusion. He proudly points to flags of all nations that hang in the room adjacent to the prayer room, he says they’re a symbolic reminder of their call to unity. Harmoush urges anyone who is curious or doubts their intentions in the community to visit ICTV anytime, an invitation he says has always been extended. The group also holds a yearly “Open Mosque Day”, a two-day event where all people of all faiths and beliefs are encouraged to visit as a way to cultivate understanding among the community. Still, he says, there are some that would rather listen to hearsay and not see for themselves.

“Ignorance always closes the doors, and puts you in the darkness,” he said referring to anyone who uses any religion as an excuse to hate.

Harmoush is grateful for the kind acts being shown to his community during this trying time. Support has come from various religious leaders in the community but he says the ones that come from average citizens are the most meaningful.

“I got a letter from a gentleman saying that he regretted such acts were happening in the 21st century in our great country of the United States of America, this wonderful, beautiful place, he said (the letter), ‘I am willing to support in any way possible,’ and he wrote a check for $100.00 to the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley,” Harmoush said with a smile.

Harmoush hopes that with better understanding among people who believe in the same God, progress in peace can be achieved. When asked if he harbors any ill will towards the protestors he said, “We will pray for them, I will pray that God open their hearts,” he said. “We worship the same God, Allah is God in Arabic.”

The Protestors

One call to protest came in email form via emails sent to several print media announcing the rally, urging members to bring Bibles, flags, signs and dogs and singing voices. The dogs and singing were emphasized because they said, Muslims “forbid women to sing” and “hate dogs”. The second came by post on the national Tea Party Patriots event page from a member of We The People Southwest Riverside County Citizens In Action, a local conservative affiliate group.

Diana Serafin, nor anyone from We The People, returned email or phone messages requesting an interview or statement, but in an LA Times interview, Serafin, said she had nothing to do with coordinating the demonstration, but did plan to attend. In another, more recent interview with, she said she helped spread the word about the protest. An excerpt from TPM’s online article quoted Serafin as saying:

“They hate Jews, they hate Christians, they hate women, they hate dogs, (the idea of the new mosque) scares the daylights out of me.”

Still, Serafin insisted she’s no bigot.

“I want you to stress this — I’m not prejudiced,” Serafin told me. “I worked retail for nine years and I didn’t even know my manager was gay until someone told me. And when I found out, I didn’t care.”

Bob Kowell, president of the Murrieta-Temecula Republican Assembly, says Serafin organized the event, then she tried to cancel it.

This is the original post, which included her name and phone number (blackened here for privacy concerns):

Picture 17.png

The page also housed a link to the to the Temecula Tea Party Patriots, who has asked all postings be removed and denied any affiliation with We The People on its site and stated this in a press release:

“The organizers of the Menifee, Hemet, Murrieta and Temecula Tea Parties wish to emphatically state that they not involved in organizing any planned Mosque protest, but that they would strongly condemn the use of dogs to harass anybody, anywhere.”

Kowell also wants to make it clear that his group has nothing to do with We The People adding that as a Republican, he cannot condone any act that is against freedom. He is concerned, however, that building a mosque that large might attract new worshipers and believes this peaceful group of Muslims may become vulnerable to radical Islamists.

“In every group you get an element, we get an element, I mean in the Republican Party, that are really, super radicals and we say, ‘ok, well, you can’t be a part of it because you’re a racist,” he said. “So there’s these groups and sometimes you can’t control them, they’re inside the church, club, mosque or the synagogue that are underground, you don’t even know they’re there.”

We The People’s website does show it’s opposition to Islam. Prominent political conservatives like, Sarah Palin, who Kowell agrees with, have not shied away from expressing their views on a mosque proposed at Ground Zero known.

Kowell doesn’t mince words when asked what he thinks about a mosque built at Ground Zero.

“Putting it (the mosque) at Ground Zero, it’s just a slap in the face to the families of those who died (at Ground Zero on 9/11) there,” he said. “It’s obvious it’s meant as a slap in the face to the people of the United States, if people can’t see that, they need help because putting it at Ground Zero, is like putting a Nazi party in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood.”

Kowell is certain that democracy has no place in Islam and says countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia are proof because they use Islam as a political system.

“The biggest thing I could say is that we are Republicans. The Republican Party was founded as the anti-slavery and anti-polygamy party in 1854,” he said. “Polygamy by men was considered slavery over women. I have noticed that the Muslims in other countries practice polygamy, thus slavery over women.”

When asked again, specifically about ICTV members and mosque Kowell emphasized, “I can’t speak for everyone, I just want to say we’re not opposed to any religion, so if they’re a peaceful religion that is not a problem.”


Leaders of the City of Temecula have remained all business, not commenting on the controversial aspect of the issue. The public hearing is scheduled for August 18th.

22 Responses to "Imam reminds opposition to future mosque they worship the same God, while conservative groups distance themselves"

  1. nick corrigan   August 1, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Thank U Julie. Pat Tillman wrote: "I believe in a goodness free of religous pretensions". If being a member of a certain faith makes you nicer – then the world is a nicer place.

  2. Ray (the real one)   August 1, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Yeah we worship the same god but in christanity, there is no such thing as infidels and Christians don’t go around stabbing people in the butt or in today’s times, blowing someone up using an IED. IN Christianity, we don’t abuse women, force then to wear certain clothes, stone them, lash them one hundred times. Let’s face it, the tenth century has long passed and for anyone who lost someone in the World Trade Center as I did, this mosque is very offensive and should not be built period. California has a large desert area, just like home, build the mosque there where they can’t hurt anyone.

  3. US13   August 1, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    We do not worship the same God. Sharia Law is a part of Islam and Islam is governed by Sharia Law. Many of the inhumane acts being carried out in foreign countries such as in the Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, etc. do not differ in its interpretation of Islam. We have witnessed various ‘control’ movements by Islamic Cleric here in the United States. Enclaves of Muslims seek to control neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Dearborn, Michigan as well as the now famous Islamberg. We continue to witness rape, honor killings, etc., all defended by the belief that Islam permits it. A recent ruling (currently on appeal) saw a Judge refuse to charge a husband with rape because it is not possible based on the Muslim law of obedience. This is what they believe!

  4. Irfan   August 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Where did you learn so much about what ‘they believe’? Your statement is complete nonsense. I’d go back to your source and ask for credentials and references. There are quite a few reputable schools in the U.S. Which can give you a cursory intro to Islam and hopefully cure your ignorance.

  5. Di   August 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Islam and Christain is not the same. Islam is a political movement and is titally opposite of the Constitution of the United States of America. Christainity does not persucute women nor any other person. Islam is using the Constitution for their polical agenda. Sharia law is also against the Constitution and Christainity. Muslims are taught to lie to further their "religion" and movement. Christains are taught not to lie at all. The Quarn is taken from the bibleand out of contents. WeChristains believe Jesus is part of the trinity but Muslims believe he was only a prophet.
    Under Sharia law:

  6. Cranky   August 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Most wars were started because of silly religious beliefs, including crazy Christians, throughout history. This deffinately includes our current war against terrorists, who incidently, are all muslims. This particular war just happened to be started by the muslim side. The people who started the war also happen to be "mainstream" muslims by world standards, not by Temecula standards maybe, but pretty typical of the entire religion as a whole. I will step up to the plate and declare that the Muslim religion is bad. There is no such thing as a good Muslim. Some might be worse than others, but they are all no good. If a bunch of Republicans went and blew up the DNC, and a vast majority of Republicans cheered in support, I would no longer associate myself with the Republican party because it is just plain evil. It seems our local Muslims are a just another minority who demand to be accepted while supporting an ideology bent on desctuction. You might say you don’t support it, but if you don’t, change your name to something less offensive not associated with murderous fiends with radical ideologies. You can paint a turd yellow, and call it corn, but it is still a turd on the inside no matter how you look at it. I’m not any type of fan of Christianity either, as they are typically "hollier than thow" Bible thumpers who have no tolerance for others. At least the Christians don’t blow crap up in the name of their religion. I can tollerate that a lot better than another 911 going down.

  7. roryemo   August 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    what about the freedom to pray/worship, being a right for all people? I served in the milatary to protect the rights of all people in the USA; because I beleive it is our right. We do not need premission to practice this right. Think about that!

  8. CommonSense   August 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Just look at this week’s cover of Time Magazine and then convince me Islam is peaceful and tollerant.

  9. Mike Vietnam Vet   August 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Nice article by Kitty Alvarado, well written and important in our times to bring people closer together and to force people like Ray and US13 out of the woodwork and into the light of day where they will someday see and understand the error of their ways.

    As always narrow minded people who have never been anywhere and know nothing except the propaganda on the TV and some radio shows so to them all Muslims and Islamic people are the same and all based on hearsay and the actions of the few.

    The radicals are everywhere in every country and we have our fare share of them but still they are only 1/10th of 1 % of the rest of the population, thank God, and that holds true of the Islamic faith as well.

    At any rate these people here in the US are more westernized and will be happy to show how similar all religions are.

    I personally am not into Religion as a whole and think they tend to separate people into groups but if that’s what floats your boat then you should be free to practice your religions to your hearts content as long as it doesn’t infringe on others or become involved in politics and government like some Christians did and ever trying to do since the days of Bush…

    Hey folks, The man said they do not adhere to the old laws just like we don’t adhere to the writings of the old testament so lets have a little less unfounded fear amongst the hayseeds and more tolerance.

    Why don’t those who are against all this just go to one of the open houses, actually meet some of these people instead of standing back throwing stones and showing everyone how simpleminded you are.

    Who cares what other countries do, take care of your own and let the abused of those countries work things out on their own or specifically ask you for help before we start imposing our puritan standards on others.

  10. CommonSense   August 1, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Everyone should read, and listen to, Harmoush’s words very carefully. He said he condemns the acts of violence but is only "concerned" that people who commit those acts are violating our Constitution.

    How about condemning, and denouncing, the people who commit those violent acts? There is a huge difference between being concerned and denouncing.

    Anything less than a total admission that the people who commit violent acts in the name of Allah are nothing more than common criminals is the same as showing support for those people.

  11. god is the greatest   August 1, 2010 at 7:46 pm




  12. CommonSense   August 1, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    To god is the greatest, I cannot answer your questions as I am not a Christian. However, I have a question for you. In your opinion, what should happen to the divorced woman and the priest or pastor who agrees to remarry her?

  13. A True Christian!   August 1, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Muslim is not a true religion – it is a political movement to overtake all others not matter their own
    religion and not matter their country and no matter their laws. The word Islam means to submit and I will never submit to a group of people who had me, my country, my beliefs, my constitution, my laws whether they be federal, state or county. Look at what these animals have accomplished since the 700’s. They have taken over countries back then like, Spain, Portugal and lets not overlook the attrocities of taking over Greece for almost 450 years. They took over their churches and made them mosques. They gouged out the eyes of the saints on the frescoes. Whey do you think they want to call the mosque they want to build in NY Cordova. Don’t forget that the great cathedral in Cordova was taken over by them and made into a mosque. Why do they consider women as property. They are not allowed to laugh, cry or talk unless allowed. They will not follow our laws but expect us to follow
    Sharia law. They have taken over Europe, now called Eurabia. Check out the great books of Oriana Fallaci: The Rage and the Pride who warned us repeatedly. We are not listening. Wake Up America. We do not believe in murder, rape, violence or a philosophy that believes that "Your Death is My Life" if we do not adhere to their insanity. I fear for us. In the name of God – Pray hard to keep America whole and without them that want to destroy everything we believe in!

  14. ginya   August 2, 2010 at 12:36 am

    I just want to say one thing. Allah may be Arabic for the word "God" but Allah is NOT the same as Jehovah. How could the God of Israel be the anti-semetic? Allah is not the God of the bible so whatever you believe, at least be able to understand such a simple fact as this: They are not and never will be the same.

  15. Gordon   August 2, 2010 at 6:37 am

    Common Sense, I would suggest you look into the mass graves at Sebrenecia, the photos from Sabra and Chatilla, or the aftermath of an attack by the Lord’s Religious Army in Uganda before you assume that Christianity (even Modern Christianity, as each of these incidents is recent) is without blood on it’s hands. Now are these instances indicative of the behavior of 99.999% of Christians who do “not” participate…… Just as we should not condemn millions of patriotic American Muslims for the actions of the fundamentalist of their faith. Put it this way, there are one h… of a lot more Muslims fighting on our side in our fight against Fundamentalist Islam, than against us. And if those guys have the guts to stand a wall with me, I have no issue defending them against the prejudice and intolerance of a few rightwingers. For those opposing this mosque purely for the faith, I would suggest an internal view of what America really means.

  16. Gordon   August 2, 2010 at 6:40 am

    So True Christian, you imply that you are against "Religion" infusing itself into politics. Tell me have you protested "Focus on Family", the "Christian Coaliation", "the Moral Majority" are any other of the dozens of Christian political groups, or is it only faiths which you are not a member of that should suffer the limits of your prejudice. How about Rabbincal Courts, where is your outrage over those in New York. Hypocrisy, thy name is………………….YOU!!!!!!!!!

  17. Gordon   August 2, 2010 at 7:02 am

    And many kudo’s to the counter-protestors. In numbers are an indicator, it would appear that "freedom" still overcomes "hate" in California, as it always has, and always should. Well done to you all for your appropriate and "civil"
    counter protests

  18. Monica   August 2, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    If there are now only 150 families in your church, where did you get the funds to finance the new mosque in Temecula? What is the name of the organization the Imam belongs to? This needs to be checked out along with where the funds are coming from to finance the mosque.

    The curran says we are infidels if we don’t believe in the Curran. It also says you have the RIGHT to LIE to us, the American people! You can say what we want to hear and its ok with you, but not with the American People.

    How do we know the difference if LYING is ACCEPTABLE in your Curran?

  19. Nick   August 2, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    All religious faiths can and will be misrepresented by man. However, saying "we all worship the same God" is an absolute lie from the pit of hell. If we all worship the same God, then we worship a God of pure confusion telling one group to live one way, and telling another group to live in complete contrast. Christianity is not buildings with nice lawns, or radicals couped up in some compound practicing crazy traditions or ideals (See Waco Texas.) The Crusades and Salem Witch trials are perfect examples of men screwing it up. The Koran says to "kill all gentiles," that is everybody who is not a Muslim. This is a religion where men fear other men because their punishments comes from men such as with Sharia law. However with Christianity the punishment comes after death, for those who don’t repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ. The only punishment for sin is hell, and hell is a very real place.

    Salvation only comes through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and repentance of sins. No amount of works or "good deeds" will get you in. This is the defining difference between Christianity and all other "religions."

  20. Gordon   August 3, 2010 at 5:48 am

    Nick, I would respectfully disagree. My Creator (native beliefs) evaluates solely on "deeds" and not "words".

  21. Rusty   August 3, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Ahhh, so this is where the mouth-breathers hide in California…

  22. Ted   August 7, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Here is the entire Press Release referred to in the above article.

    Menifee, Hemet,Murrieta, and Temecula Tea Parties not involved in Temecula Mosque Protests
    For immediate release: 7/28/2010
    A spat of articles in the Los Angeles Times, the PR Newswire, and the Valley News of Fallbrook falsely give the impression that southwest Riverside County Tea Party groups are involved in the planning and organizing of a protest against a planned Temecula mosque on July 30. Even worse, CAIR alleges that Tea Party groups are somehow planning to use dogs to harass Muslim worshipers. The headline of the PR Newswire states


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