California Cafe Wants Legal Fees Paid by Muslim Women Who Sued Them

In April, seven Muslim women, six of whom were wearing hijabs, were asked to give up their table at the popular Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach, California. According to the staff, the women were in violation of the cafe's rush hour policy. The policy states that "during our busy rush times, if you have already been at a table for 45 minutes or longer, please share or give your table to someone who is waiting. If tables are available, you are certainly welcome to enjoy Urth for as long as you desire."

After the women allegedly refused to leave, the cafe notified the police, who arrived and escorted them out.

The seven women claimed religious discrimination, and filed a lawsuit against Urth. One of the plaintiffs, Sara Farsakh, even recorded a video in which multiple tables are shown to be available in the cafe.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Farsakh wrote that after being at the restaurant for approximately 45 minutes, "an employee, Tino, came to our table and told us that we needed to leave the restaurant within the next ten minutes. Tino explained that they were anticipating a busy evening and needed to clear tables, and that per their policy, anyone that had been there for over 45 minutes was required to share or give up their table to other customers."

She added that a table of white women next to them were "shocked," telling her they had been there for much longer, but hadn't been asked to leave.

According to the OC Register, Mohammad Tajsar, one of several attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said Urth Caffe "targeted" Farsakh and her friends "as a way of cleansing their location of women that appeared to be Muslim to appease the Islamaphobia in a predominantly white Laguna Beach community."

In response, Urth filed a countersuit Tuesday, claiming "trespass," and demanding the plaintiffs pay their legal fees. David Yerushalmi, of the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), the organization representing the cafe, said:

"The underlying lawsuit claiming religious discrimination is a fraud and a hoax on the courts and the media...It is nothing short of an abuse of process to extort public apologies and other accommodations from my client, Urth Caffé."

He added that a large portion of the cafe's customers are Muslim, and to claim that the seven women were ejected because of their faith is ludicrous:

"That night, as every Friday night, a large number of young people, including a majority who are [of] Muslim and of Arab descent, make up the base of Urth Caffe’s customers. Not surprisingly, many of these customers are women wearing hijabs. None of these other Muslim women were asked to leave."

At this point, this is a case of "he said, she said." Until the evidence is examined by a judge on November 22, not much more can be officially stated. However, there are several factors that should be noted.

Jilla Berkman, co-owner of Urth with her husband, is a Muslim. It seems rather odd that a Muslim woman would sanction discrimination against other Muslim women at her own cafe, then file a lawsuit against them. According to Urth's attorney, it was Berkman who actually authorized the call to the police.

In the video recorded by Sara Farsakh, numerous tables are indeed open. However, from what can be seen, the available space appears to be made up of mostly 2-4 person tables. She and her friends were likely occupying a larger space, given they were a group of seven. If another large group of customers wanted a seat on the patio, such small spaces wouldn't suffice--let alone if more than one large group wanted to sit.

During the course of her video, Farsakh didn't speak to anyone who could have substantiated their case, despite claiming on social media that those around the women were "shocked" at what happened.

Finally, according to Urth's attorney, Sara 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." If Farsakh is, in fact, a radical, then she may be more prone to see discrimination where there is none.

All of this must be taken with a grain of salt, as much of what's been presented so far is conjecture, and potentially skewed as a result of personal interest.

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