LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Attorneys for the owner of a Laguna Beach cafe sued for alleged discrimination against Muslim women are calling the lawsuit a "fraud and a hoax".
David Yerushalmi, senior counsel and co-founder of the Los Angeles-based American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), says allegations that the Urth Caffe asked a party of hijab-wearing women to leave the cafe because of their religion are "laughable".
"That night, as every Friday night, a large number of young people, including a majority of whom are Muslim and of Arab descent, make up the base of Urth Caffe's customers," said Yerushalmi. "Not surprisingly, many of these customers are women wearing hijabs.
"None of these other Muslim women were asked to leave," he added.
According to the lawsuit, seven women claim police officers escorted them out of the cafe at 308 N. Coast Highway on April 22 for violating the restaurant's 45-minute limit table time.
One of the plaintiffs, Sara Farsakh, alleged there were at least 20 empty tables at the time officers escorted them out.
But according to Yerushalmi, the cafe's policy was enforced to "allow other customers, including those wearing hijabs, to enjoy the experience."
Yerushalmi also says that Jilla Berkman, who co-owns the Urth Caffe with her husband, is herself a Muslim woman and is the one who authorized the call to police after the patrons "were loud and abusive to the Urth Caffe employees and refused to give up their table per the stated policy."
According to Yerushalmi, Farsakh is a "college-age activist for Palestinian causes who self-promotes her involvement in radical organizations, at least one of which calls for the destruction of Israel."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) Greater Los Angeles office issued a statement last week voicing concern about the incident and saying they would investigate the matter.
Yerushami says the AFLC intends to sue both Farsakh and the CAIR, which attorneys say is behind the lawsuit to "use our anti-discrimination laws not for equal protection, but to attain special protection and rights for sharia-adherent Muslims who reject America and the Judeo-Christian values it stands for."
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