This past June, United States Representative Ted Deutch (D-Florida) paid a visit to the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, a radical mosque with a long history of terror and bigotry, and spoke in front of its leadership. The event must be exposed so that the Congressman and others in his position understand that participating in such an event is dangerous, because it provides legitimacy and cover for an institution which for over a decade has been documented to pose a genuine threat to the community.
On June 2nd, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR) placed a video from one of its events on its Facebook page with the caption: ‘Congressman Theodore Elliot Deutch visits ICBR.’ The video portrayed Deutch speaking to a small group, while standing next to a video monitor and in back of a table, both with the green and white ICBR logo found on them. Seated to his left and looking intently on the Congressman was the President and co-founder of the mosque, Bassem Alhalabi.
Prior to arriving in Boca, Bassem Abdo Alhalabi (Al-Halabi) was a research assistant to and co-author of publications with Sami al-Arian at the University of South Florida (USF), while al-Arian was actively creating a terrorist infrastructure in the US for Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Alhalabi used al-Arian as a reference, when he would later apply for a job at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca, where he is currently an Associate Professor. Another of Alhalabi’s PIJ colleagues, Hussam Jubara, whom Alhalabi calls a “close friend,” was arrested in March 2003, charged and convicted of felony immigration fraud, and later deported from the US.
In June 2003, the US Department of Commerce charged Alhalabi with illegally shipping a $13,000 military-grade thermal imaging device to Syria. In March 2010, Alhalabi was arrested and charged with battery of one person and assault of another, both perpetrated at a Muslim advocacy conference he had been attending in Tallahassee, Florida. A mugshot of him from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is found online.
Alhalabi is not the only violence-related issue at ICBR.
Another ICBR co-founder was Hamas web designer Syed Khawer Ahmad, who created the first official website for the Islamic Association, al-Jamia al-Islamiya, the charitable arm of Hamas. ICBR’s founding imam, Ibrahim Dremali, has spent time on the federal ‘no fly’ list. In January 2000, the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), a now defunct al-Qaeda-related charity, gave $600 thousand to ICBR as seed money towards the construction of a new 27,000-square-foot mosque, which is today the current ICBR. In May 2007, then-ICBR member Rafiq Sabir was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda.
The imam who took Ibrahim Dremali’s place at ICBR, Muneer Arafat, was a former roommate of al-Qaeda and Hamas operative Ziyad Khaleel, the individual who, in May 1998, delivered to Osama bin Laden a satellite phone and battery pack that would later be used to plan the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In June 2005, while giving courtroom testimony about Sami al-Arian, Arafat admitted to being a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and stated that he is in favor of PIJ’s “goal of destroying Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state.” Both Dremali and Arafat have been arrested, since being in the US.
From October 1999 through September 2001, ICBR published a violently anti-Semitic essay on its website, titled ‘Why can’t the Jews and Muslims live together in peace?’ It stated, “Jews are people of treachery and betrayal; it is not possible to trust them at all… As the Muslims and Jews are enemies residing in opposing religious and doctrinal camps, it is not possible for them to be brought together unless one is made to submit to the other by force… [T]he Prophet said, ‘The Hour (the Day of Judgement) will not begin until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.’”
From October 1999 through February 2003, ICBR promoted on its website the al-Haramain Foundation, a now-defunct group then-based in Saudi Arabia that was designated a terrorist organization by the US government for its personal association with Osama bin Laden and its financing of al-Qaeda. From October 1999 through July 2001, ICBR’s website homepage featured a link to qoqaz.net (‘Jihad in Chechnya’), a then-fundraising and recruiting site for al-Qaeda produced by Azzam Publications, named for bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam.
Congressman Deutch has his own controversial history with ICBR. In July 2016, following a number of complaints from the public centered on ICBR’s extremism, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher withdrew ICBR as a polling site for the then-upcoming 2016 elections. In response to this, Deutch issued a statement suggesting the move was discriminatory.
Within Representative Deutch’s speech to ICBR and its leadership, the Congressman talked about efforts underway to “build bridges,” “work together,” and “build that stronger bond.” He said he was “really grateful for the chance to come and to be reacquainted with some of you who are here, and especially it’s an honor for me…”
Politicians make these kind gestures all of the time and usually they are considered innocuous, but when they are made towards those who have shown a propensity to threaten our nation with the spread of violence and bigotry, these kind gestures are no longer innocent. Instead, they are invitations to our enemies to continue in the violence and bigotry. Congressman Deutch, who also happens to be Jewish, might as well have told the crowd, “Don’t worry, keep doing what you are doing, and we will look the other way.”
It is incumbent upon all of us to inform government officials, such as US Representative Ted Deutch, that their actions can have terrible consequences for our nation, and his actions were and are completely unacceptable. We must tell him that he must repudiate the activities of and his association with the ICBR immediately.
If you wish to contact Representative Deutch, you may do so by calling his offices, in Washington, DC at 202-225-3001 and in Boca Raton at 561-470-5440. Or you may email Representative Deutch’s Legislative Assistant and Press Secretary, Jason Attermann, at [email protected]. Please be respectful in any and all communications with these individuals and offices.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.