The dean of Muhammad University of Islam denied in court Tuesday that he attempted to extort money from and made threats against employees of a Bayview liquor store.
Leon Muhammad, 43, was arrested Friday after an employee of the Yemeni-owned Bayview Liquors at Third Street and Newcomb Avenue told police Muhammad gave workers an Islamic leaflet and demanded money, police said.
When they refused, Muhammad allegedly threatened to “cut [the employee] into pieces and burn the place down” because it sold alcohol in the neighborhood, police said.
In Superior Court on Tuesday, Muhammad was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to one count of attempted extortion and two counts of criminal threats. Following the hearing, Muhammad’s attorney, Damone Hale, declined comment about the specifics of the case.
“Justice will be served in this case,” Hale said. “The facts will come to light.”
The next court hearing is scheduled for today.
Sameer Kandah, the owner of the nearby Royal Gift and Smoke Shop, said Tuesday he had received a similar visit from a man about a month ago who said he was Muslim.
“He did the same thing to me,” Kandah said. “He came here and asked for a donation. The way he asked, it was like we owe him money.”
Kandah, who is not Muslim, said when he refused the request for a $10 donation, the man stood out on the sidewalk yelling about the store selling cigarettes.
This is not the first time Bay Area black Muslim groups have been accused of targeting liquor stores. Members of the former Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland were accused of vandalizing Muslim-owned liquor stores there in 2005.
While Hale denied his client committed any crime, he did say that, as a longtime Bayview resident, he felt that stores selling alcohol and cigarettes in the community were a problem.
“Liquor stores, people who operate them, understand clearly the impact [on the community] of selling liquor [and] cigarettes,” he said.