In December 2017, an anti-Israel rally took place in Downtown Orlando, featuring speeches and chants against the Jewish state. The highlight of the event, though, came from an individual spewing hatred against Jews, themselves. That individual was local real estate investor, Said Lutfi. This past February, Lutfi stepped down from his role as President of the Arab American Community Center of Florida (AACC), an extreme anti-Israel group that organizes Orlando events sponsored by Islamists. Lutfi’s involvement with AACC not only reflects on the group and its members, but it too reflects on the high profile figures who participate at AACC affairs.
The Orlando rally, titled ‘HANDS OFF JERUSALEM RALLY FOR PALESTINE,’ was led by Rasha Mubarak, then-Central Florida Regional Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group with foundational and financial ties to Hamas and one of the co-sponsors of the rally. Mubarak has used her social media to celebrate Hamas militants and has, on many occasions, promoted the radical idea that Israel has no right to defend herself. Most recently, she has served as a fundraiser and advisor to US Representative Rashida Tlaib. Tlaib has provided Mubarak’s consulting group, Unbought Power, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Following the rally, a video was released by the group The United West (TUW) showing an unhinged Said Lutfi, who is Mubarak’s uncle and a local real estate investor, viciously berating the Jewish background of TUW staffer Alan Kornman. Lutfi referred to Kornman as a “dirty Jew” and “bastard Jew.” He said that Jews are “baby killers,” “Jesus killers” and “the crappiest piece of s**t on this planet.” He stated, “You know what, a ‘Jew’ is a curse… When you say ‘Damn Jew,’ damn means curse. Any language in the world, they say… ‘Damn, you being like a damn Jew. You act like a damn Jew. You steal like a Jew. You stingy like a Jew.’ This is a fact!”
At another Mubarak-organized rally in Orlando – July 2018’s ‘Al-Qods Day’ – Lutfi, once again, was caught on camera by TUW and Kornman. This time, Lutfi discussed his view of Hezbollah, the internationally-recognized terrorist group, while denying Israel’s existence. As friend of the family and former Lutfi Investment Company employee Todarian Harvey (a.k.a. Ali Shabazz SA Amun) waved a sizeable Hezbollah flag next to Lutfi, Lutfi stated the following: “Hezbollah is a group, they’re freedom fighters… Hezbollah to us is freedom fighters. To you they terrorists. To us they freedom fighter from occupation of so-called Israel.”
These were not the only shocking controversies involving Said Lutfi. Years before Lutfi joined in his niece’s rallies, he had been the subject of an alleged crime, regarding his brother, Mohammad Lutfi, and the mother of Mohammad’s two children, Hiyam Dean Taha. In January 2007, Taha accused Said of holding her against her will and preventing her from calling the police, after Mohammad allegedly attacked her and attempted to stab her with a steak knife.
With all of these things – the intense Jew hatred, the lauding of a terrorist group, and the alleged violence carried out against his then-sister-in-law – one would think it strange for an organization to choose Said Lutfi as its leader. Yet, that is exactly what happened, just over two years ago, when Lutfi became President of the Orlando-based Arab American Community Center of Florida (AACC). However, once one is made aware of the extremists and the extremism of AACC, it makes perfect sense as to why they would embrace such a man.
AACC was incorporated in April 2006 by then-Registered Agent Janan Al-Awar Smither, a Lebanese-born psychology professor, who wildly believes that Israel is committing “genocide” against the Palestinians. One of the group’s three founding directors, Suzan Awad Abdurrahman, in September 2021, referred to the six highly publicized Palestinian escapees of an Israeli prison, who were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (AMB) terrorist organizations, as “freedom fighters.”
A current AACC board member, Sawsan Rabieh Recine, has stated that Israel perpetrated a “second Holocaust” on the Palestinians. She posted on Facebook that Monica Lewinsky was an Israeli “intelligence agent” and that Israel had involvement in 9/11 and the distribution of anthrax into the US “mail system.” She said that ISIS was “created by the CIA and the Zionist” and that “most of the large companies and top bankers are owned by” Jews. She posts videos featuring notorious anti-Semite Kenneth O’Keefe and material from entities that call for the destruction of Israel, including the official Hamas movement news site, Palestinian Information Center (PIC).
AACC’s new President, who took the place of Lutfi and served as Vice President during all of Lutfi’s term, is pulmonary doctor Ahmad Jalloul. Like Sawsan Recine, Jalloul has used his Facebook page to post material from a Hamas affiliate news service, that being Shehab News Agency.
It is not only AACC’s leadership that use social media to target Israel and Jews, but it is AACC, itself. Just this past September, AACC promoted on its Facebook page the showing of a film, Boycott, encouraging the boycotting of Israeli products (BDS), something that the majority of states within the US have enacted legislation against. AACC has also used its Twitter page to retweet anti-Semitic Muslim activist Linda Sarsour – nearly two dozen times. In September 2019, Sarsour was forced to resign from her position as National Organizer and Co-Chair of the Women’s March, due to her alleged embrace of bigotry against Jews and LGBTQ.
Additionally, co-sponsoring numerous events for and with AACC is the US chapter of Islamic Relief, IRUSA. In 2015, IRUSA ex-Chairman, Khaled Lamada, tweeted that it is “absurd” to classify Hamas “as a terrorist organization.” Globally, Islamic Relief has been banned by several nations, including Israel, UAE and Bangladesh. In 1999, it was reported that the group collected and sent over $6 million to Chechen rebels with ties to Al-Qaeda. In 2014, Britain’s HSBC bank cut ties with the main chapter of Islamic Relief, Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), over concerns about “terrorist financing.” In 2021, the US cut ties with IRW over charges of antisemitism.
The extremism and bigotry coming from AACC and its leadership is overwhelming, but that has not stopped politicians and law enforcement officials from wishing to be seen with the group. High profile figures, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Former US Senator and current NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, US Representatives Darren Soto and Val Demings, Orange County Sheriff John Mina, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, and Florida State House Representatives Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna Eskamani, have happily spoken at AACC events and have had their pictures taken with AACC leaders, including with Lutfi.
It appears that AACC has gotten a pass when it comes to spreading hate against Jews, as embodied by the rabid antisemitism of AACC’s outgoing President Said Lufti, who was active in the organization long before becoming President. The politicians and law enforcement officials who are pandering to such a group are betraying their nation’s security, the public trust, and their own integrity. Given the above information, any public official who continues to curry favor with AACC should be publicly shamed and immediately dismissed from their positions.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.