A member of a “mainstream” Muslim group physically attacks me.
If Ahmed Bedier’s United Voices for America (UVA) was a peaceful organization, with the series of events which occurred earlier this month, you wouldn’t have known it. On the day termed by the group “Muslim Capitol Day,” one of UVA’s members, Bassem Alhalabi, attacked two individuals, this author included. A warrant was issued in his name, culminating in his arrest. This, among other things, leaves into question the true intentions of the UVA.
United Voices for America – United Voices for short – was the brainchild of the former Executive Director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Tampa), Ahmed Bedier. According to Bedier, UVA was created to lobby Florida’s legislature on such issues as education reform, health care reform, and stimulation of the economy. Given Bedier’s long history of extremist activity, though, one would need to be skeptical about such motives.
Bedier began working for CAIR in February 2003, the same month that Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Sami al-Arian was arrested by the FBI. This was no mere coincidence. Bedier was just coming off a stint as Outreach Director of a radical mosque, the Islamic Society of Pinellas County (ISPC), and CAIR needed someone in the Tampa Bay area to defend al-Arian, one of the founders of CAIR’s parent organization, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). Bedier fit the bill.
As “unofficial spokesman” for al-Arian, Bedier held press conferences for al-Arian; he spoke at rallies for al-Arian; he organized the showing of a puff film belittling the government’s case against al-Arian; he defended al-Arian in the media; and he allowed the radio show he co-hosts, True Talk, to be used as a forum for al-Arian’s Islamic Jihad colleagues to speak and spew their hatred for Israel and the United States.
Besides shilling for al-Arian’s cohorts, Bedier has also used his radio show to promote Hezbollah. In July 2006, during Israel’s war in Lebanon, all three of Bedier’s radio show guests lauded Hezbollah, describing the terrorist group with such terms as “heroic.”
In May 2008, one year after the U.S. Justice Department named Bedier’s group, CAIR, a co-conspirator in the financing of millions of dollars to Hamas, he announced on his radio show that he was leaving CAIR and starting a new group. That group was UVA.
On Thursday, March 11, 2010, Bedier took his “lobby” group to Tallahassee for its 2nd Annual Florida Muslim Capitol Day. But while the group claimed that it was in town to discuss issues of importance to all Floridians, the event was overshadowed by two assaults that were perpetrated by one of UVA’s members, the first of which was an attack on this author.
I flew up to Tallahassee to join a group of concerned leaders, who were speaking out about Bedier and UVA. Over the years, I had written extensively about Bedier and his terrorist ties, so it was important for me to attend. While I was there, I had the pleasure of giving a PowerPoint presentation about Bedier at a government briefing held in the city’s IMAX Theater.
Following a meeting with a government official, our group found itself in the Rotunda (lobby) of the Capitol Building. While there, I thought I had recognized someone I had written about in the past, Bassem Abdo Alhalabi.
Alhalabi is an Associate Professor at the Computer Science and Engineering Department of Florida Atlantic University (FAU). He arrived at FAU in August 1996.
Prior to that, he had been an assistant to Sami al-Arian at the University of South Florida (USF), at a time when al-Arian was creating a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist network within the Tampa suburb of Temple Terrace. Alhalabi co-authored materials with al-Arian and used al-Arian as a reference, when he later applied for a position at FAU.
Apart from being a university professor, Alhalabi is also a director and co-founder of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR), a radical mosque that has ties to several terrorist-related individuals.
One of the co-founders of the mosque, Syed Khawer Ahmad, at the time an FAU student, was the creator of and webmaster for the official website of the Islamic Association, a.k.a. Islamic Society, the social services apparatus of Hamas in Gaza. The former imam of the mosque, Ibrahim Dremali, was placed on the federal no-fly list. And a member of the mosque, Rafiq Sabir, was convicted in May 2007 of providing material support to al-Qaeda.
The man who appeared to be Alhalabi was speaking to another individual, and so I got closer to take a picture with my camera. Evidentially, I was correct about his identity, as Alhalabi recognized me as well, and he soon made his way over to me.
Alhalabi put his finger in my face and asked me if I knew who he was. “Do you know who I am?” When I answered in the affirmative, he forcefully grabbed my arm, stated “I need to talk to you,” and began pulling me towards the hallway of the Rotunda. I said to him “Let go of me,” but he refused. Alhalabi just kept asking me loudly, “Why do you keep writing about me?”
I began shouting for Mark Campbell, the cameraman who I was with just minutes before all of this took place. I wanted him to get evidence of the assault on film. Mark came, but Alhalabi released me before Mark could get the camera rolling. Thankfully, another individual got a photo of Alhalabi grabbing my arm.
When it looked like things were getting too heated and Alhalabi could do something beyond the aggression he had already exhibited, his UVA colleague jumped in and ushered Alhalabi away.
I filed a police report and stated my wishes to press charges. Accompanying me were the witness with the photograph and the cameraman.
One of the officers, who had questioned Alhalabi, said that Alhalabi stated he had not touched anyone. It was a lie, as the photo (and potential Rotunda surveillance footage) proved, and later he would be charged by the Capitol police with battery.
Campbell left to get ready to attend UVA’s next event.
When we arrived in Tallahassee, our group had been told that we were allowed to be present at UVA’s events and we were, as well, allowed to videotape them. We were even told we could ask questions, as long as we acted in a respectful manner and did not make any attempt to disrupt anything.
I balked at going, as I felt I had already had enough excitement for one day.
It was about an hour following the attack on me, and Campbell was inside UVA’s event. With the camera running, he caught Alhalabi walking by. Alhalabi spotted him out of the corner of his eye and did a ‘double take,’ realizing that Campbell had been the individual accompanying me earlier.
Alhalabi then quickly moved to the side of Campbell and put a blue UVA folder filled with papers in front of the camera lens to stop Campbell from taping. A few moments later, Alhalabi violently lunged for and grabbed Campbell’s camera, jerking it, whilst startling a young Muslima standing next to him. The police seized Alhalabi, just as he appeared to be motioning to hit Campbell with his folder.
The entire scene was caught on tape.
Campbell, as I had done earlier, filed a police report and stated his intention to press charges. And once again, the police charged Alhalabi with battery – his second charge in one day – in one hour.
On Friday, March 19th, a warrant was issued in Alhalabi’s name for his attack on me. The charge concerning the attack on Campbell is still pending.
According to an official from the Leon County State Attorney’s office, Alhalabi was given the choice of either turning himself in or being subject to arrest. Alhalabi chose the latter, and was apprehended in Boca Raton on Monday, March 22nd, by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office. He spent the day behind bars and was released on March 23rd, at 2:15 in the morning, after paying the bond that was set at $500.
This was not the first time Alhalabi found himself on the other side of the law. In June 2003, he was found guilty of illegally shipping a $13,000 military-grade thermal imaging device to Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism.
Alhalabi’s violent actions and sinister pursuits show that he, no doubt, is a threat to society. Indeed, these things are indicative of the organization he has come to represent, UVA, a group that has as its leader, Bedier, someone who has a similar terrorist-related past, someone who proclaimed at UVA’s 2009 Tallahassee event, “We want the government to fear us.”
UVA uses political lobbying as a cover for bullying and intimidation, and in the case of myself and Mr. Campbell, violence. It claims to be a peaceful group with concerns about such important issues as education and health care, but the reality is that it is nothing but a dangerous ruse – a radical Islamic front – dressed in an innocuous name, using innocuous language.
While United Voices for America has met with some of Florida’s Representatives, the vast majority have thankfully kept away, in part as a result of information provided to them by people such as this author. With emissaries like Bassem Alhalabi and Ahmed Bedier, it is not hard to understand why the group would be shunned.
Beila Rabinowitz, the Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.