Back in May, seven Muslim women sued a restaurant, claiming they were kicked out by police because they were Muslim. Sara Farsakh and her friends said it was because they were wearing traditional Muslim clothing.
The restaurant, Urth Caffé in Laguna Beach, California, immediately said the women’s claim was a fabrication, and now they are countersuing. They claim that the customers were asked to switch tables because patrons are only permitted to sit in high-demand spots for 45 minutes, and that police were only called when the women refused to move and were abusive to employees.
Attorney David Yerushalmi from the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), who represents Urth Caffé, told LawNewz.com that not only is the co-owner of the restaurant, Jilla Berkman, Muslim, a large portion of the customer base is Muslim or Arab. “This lawsuit claiming religious discrimination is a fraud and a hoax on the courts and the media,” Yershalmi said in a statement. “It is nothing short of an abuse of process to extort public apologies and other accommodations from my client, Urth Caffe.”
In a court document filed on Wednesday, Yerushalmi said there was “an underlying agenda for this litigation that has nothing to do with justice.” In a statement, he characterized Farsakh as a college-aged activist who “self-promotes her involvement in radical organizations.” He said that the lawsuit is “a fraud and a hoax on the courts and the media … nothing short of an abuse of process to extort public apologies and other accommodations.”
Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney with the firm Hadsell Stormer Renick, who represents the Muslim women, told LawNewz.com that the claim that his clients’ discrimination suit has any such ulterior motive is “totally unsubstantiated.” Tajsar did not dispute that many of Urth Caffé’s customers may be Muslim, but he said that the restaurant did discriminate against his clients. He said that the incident occurred at a time when there was high tension in the neighboring community regarding Muslims, and that Urth Caffé was trying to “appease the haters” by not keeping visibly Muslim customers at a conspicuous outdoor table.
A hearing for the case is scheduled for Tuesday, June 28.
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