The leader of a local Muslim community stepped down, a board member for the congregation said today.
Mahmoud Harmoush, a Temecula man who was the imam for the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, stepped down on Feb. 21, according to Boardmember Mohammed Suleiman.
The former imam's contract expired in February, and he declined to accept a new one, Suleiman said.
"Everyone went their separate ways. No harm, no foul," the board member said. "He's still a member of our community and joins us for prayers."
Harmoush declined to comment for the story. Hadi Nael, the president of the Islamic center's board, did not return a phone call today.
Harmoush steered the community through a storm of controversy last year as it sought permits to build a mosque in Temecula.
The plan for the new religious house brought people to twice in the hundreds both in support and opposition.
Criticism of the mosque ranged from concerns.
for that sits nearby. Others called it a "" and was part of a plan to subjugate the world.
Supporters said the congregation is peaceful, and that the members are active in the Temecula community. They attributed most of the criticism to Islamophobia.
after a meeting that was the longest in the city's history.
At least one city leader, Councilmember Ron Roberts, to help the Muslim community build their mosque.
Mohamed Mabrouk, a newcomer to the community, took Harmoush's place.
He graduated from Jamiah Al Uloom Al Islamiah, an Islamic institute, with an ijaza in Hifth of the Quran and Hadith in 2003. He also headed a Muslim youth group in Arizona. He is now working on a Bachelor's degree in Medical Chemistry, according to the center's website.
He's a lot younger than Harmoush, and he was born and raised in the U.S., so he relates well with the center's comparatively young congregation, especially the American-born members, Suleiman said. "He can connect with the young community in a better way," he said. "There's no language barrier."
Harmoush continues to work as a professor of Arabic at California State University San Bernardino.