Pastor Joel C. Hunter of Florida’s Northland Church is under fire for his stance against the state’s proposed legislation based on American Laws for American Courts. He chose a peculiar individual to help make his case: Atif Fareed, former chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida.
The influence of Pastor Hunter is not to be dismissed. His church’s congregation numbers around 15,000 and he sits on the boards of the National Association of Evangelicals and the World Evangelical Alliance. He has served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and remains a “spiritual advisor” to him.
Hunter opposes the legislation, which is designed to stop foreign law from superseding American law, because he sees it as an “unnecessary law that increases bias and heightens animosity between Christians and Muslims.” Although it is often described as “anti-Shariah” legislation, it doesn’t mention Shariah or Islam. It is focused on all foreign law.
The Florida Family Association went into action when Hunter asked Atif Fareed, a former chairman of the Florida branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), to read a statement to the Florida Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability for him. CAIR was labeled an unindicted co-conspirator in the country’s largest terrorism-finance trial and was listed among “individuals/entities who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee and/or its organizations.” The Palestine Committee is a secret Brotherhood body set up to support the Hamas agenda in America.
Fareed was interrogated by the FBI for three hours in 2004, but he has provided sensitivity training to FBI agents since then. He was a representative for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a group founded by Brotherhood ideologues, and was involved in a rally to defend Sami al-Arian, a convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader. He is the chairman of American Muslim Community Centers, which has a facility in the same city as Hunter’s church.
The organization’s bylaws state that if it were to be dissolved, its assets are to be distributed to the “North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) or another recognized National non-profit Islamic organization.” NAIT, like CAIR, is an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation and is listed as a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity. A 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood strategic memorandum, which describes its work as a “kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within,” lists NAIT as one of its fronts.
“I am not aligning myself with CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood, or any other Muslim organization. I am not for Shariah or any other foreign law to compete with our Constitution,” Hunter said after the controversy began.
Though Hunter insists the legislation is not necessary, the Center for Security Policy has compiled 50 instances where Shariah-based legislation from 16 countries influenced the court case. As the American Public Policy Alliance explains, unclear state law has resulted in “the courts and the litigants hav[ing] repeatedly failed to recognize that granting comity to a foreign judgment may be at odds with our state and federal constitutional principles…”
The website has 10 cases where American-Muslim court cases where there was conflict between American law and Shariah-based foreign law. The results are as follows: “In cases 1-3, the Appellate Courts upheld Shariah law; in cases 4-7, the Trial Courts upheld Shariah, but the Appellate Courts reversed (protecting the litigant’s constitutional rights); in cases 8-10, both Trial and Appellate Courts rejected the attempts to enforce Shariah law.”
Hunter’s view of himself as a rival of “Christian Zionists” may help explain his relationship with Fareed, who said in 2002, “[Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon is a warmonger and only the United States can stop him.”
“There is a part of the evangelical family, which is what I call Christian Zionists, who are just so staunchly pro-Israel that Israel and their side can do no wrong, and it’s almost anti-biblical to criticize Israel for anything. But there are many more evangelicals who are really open and seek justice for both parties,” Hunter said in 2007.
In his March 2012 newsletter, Hunter spoke at the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference put together by Palestinian Christians at Bethlehem Bible College. An article posted on Hunter’s website reports how the audience, including students from Wheaton and Eastern Universities, “were moved by the testimony of Palestinian men and women who shared the pain and suffering they experience on a daily basis caused primarily by the continuing occupation.”
The Bethlehem Bible College’s President, Dr. Bishara Awad, is an “old friend” of the executive director of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, who attended the conference.
As we documented when the group held an event at Wheaton College, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding’s objective is to battle Christian Zionism, which it accuses of seeking to trigger Armageddon. Its former director even spoke at an American Muslims for Palestine convention full of Islamist speakers linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
When groups like CAIR talk about interfaith engagement, they are talking about political coalition-building. For Islamists, the true test of one’s tolerance is their willingness to join their campaigns.
This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.