Joe Kaufman is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Chairman of the Joe Kaufman Security Initiative. He was the 2014, 2016 and 2018 Republican Nominee for U.S. House of Representatives (Florida-CD23).
The Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop is a well-known ‘hot spot’ for South Florida bargain hunters seeking out the latest flea market deals and moviegoers heading to watch the latest drive-in flics with their families. It once featured free concerts of famous bands and a circus with elephants, clowns and acrobats. It was where Jeb Bush announced his run for Governor, well over two decades ago. Now, once every two weeks, the famed Swap Shop features extreme Muslims seeking to convert the vulnerable to radical Islam, and they are doing it in the name of Jesus, literally. The dangerous nature of this offensive endeavor must be exposed and condemned.
WhyIslam is the dawah (religious outreach) division of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the US arm of South Asian Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). As such, WhyIslam and ICNA have sizable links with overseas terror. Appearing on a 2008 video promoting WhyIslam was Mazen Mokhtar, a former admin for the now-defunct al-Qaeda recruitment site, qoqaz.net, and a champion of Hamas and suicide bombings. Since September 1989, ICNA has been associated with Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, a former JI death squad leader who was sentenced to death, in absentia, for multiple murders, and who has held a number of top ICNA positions.
Up until recently, WhyIslam featured a message board on its website. A number of the forum moderators used it to post messages in favor of Hamas, Hezbollah, the vilification of Jews, and the destruction of Israel. One, BrJimC, wrote, “I don’t think Hamas has a reason to not want to destroy Israel…” and “Those Jews that speak out against such atrocity by holding their public officials accountable are the ones who deserve peace and life… The rest will one day wind up in the Mediterranean Sea.” Another moderator, MARWAN, wrote, “I support Hezbollah as long as they stand by justice” and “Nazi restaurant… I wonder if they have kosher meals.”
This past December, the South Florida Muslim Federation (SoFlo Muslims), an umbrella group for South Florida’s many radical Muslim entities, along with WhyIslam opened up a booth at the Swap Shop targeting members of the Christian community. It included a canopy hovering over a table, on top of which were free copies of the Quran to be given away. Attached to one side of the canopy was a huge WhyIslam banner that read, “I [heart] JESUS.” The sign was meant to disarm Christians and make them believe they were in friendly territory. While the group may purport to have an affinity for Jesus, regarding them as friends would be a grave error.
Accompanying WhyIslam was Texas-based imam, Ibrahim Dremali, who had previously been a fixture in the South Florida Muslim community and later would be added to the federal ‘no fly’ list. In 2000, Dremali partook in an event in Miami, where Israeli flags were burned and event goers shouted for “Zionist blood.” In 2001, when his Boca mosque was criticized for publishing a violent essay on its website labeling Jews “enemies” and stating that Muslims will “fight the Jews and kill them,” Dremali lied and said it was the result of “hackers.” And in 2002, he was a character witness at a hearing for soon-to-be-convicted al-Qaeda operative Adham Hassoun.
Dremali has also been involved with ICNA, in the past. From March 2000 to September 2001, Dremali was listed as one of eight local contacts for ICNA-SE, ICNA’s southeast regional division, on the same web page as links to the official sites of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban. The page also solicited funds for al-Qaeda’s qoqaz.net (mentioned previously). The webmaster for the ICNA-SE site was Syed Khawer Ahmad, a co-founder of Dremali’s Boca mosque and who was, at the time, a website designer for Hamas in Gaza.
The Muslim Federation, which has as one of its members a mosque, Masjid Jamaat Al Mumineen (MJAM), that propagates material on its website which repeatedly curses Jews and Christians, has branded its Swap Shop project participants, the ‘SoFlo-WhyIslam Dawah Team.’ It claims the booth will run once every two weeks, and according to the Federation, the team is “growing.”
The Federation has posted photos on its website and social media of the Dawah Team in action. One photo taken from the team’s booth depicts a serious-looking Dremali wearing a Palestinian kaffiyeh-patterned COVID mask, hunched over, while ‘in the face’ of a disabled man in a mobility scooter. Another photo, taken in January, included a second WhyIslam banner, which stated, “ISLAM: The way of life [of] Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad.”
For years, ICNA has been spreading a similar message via buses and billboards. However the message is offensive to many within the Jewish and Christian faiths as well as misleading, because it implies that the most revered figures in Judaism and Christianity were practicing Muslims and are solely part of Islam. This, even though the religion of Islam came into existence long after the others. In 2009, when the Islamist group CAIR paid for the identical message to be placed on Broward County, Florida buses – something that this author led a demonstration against – even the liberal Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel said the message was incendiary.
Now, twelve years later, ICNA and the South Florida Muslim Federation are, once again, co-opting Jewish and Christian icons of the past, while getting into the faces of non-Muslims, to push the same pseudo-theological drivel, what amounts to nothing more than a repulsive lie. But then, what can you expect from Islamist organizations that associate with and promote bigotry and terror? Shame on those who ignore the threat coming from these dangerous groups practicing religious theft and cultural appropriation, and shame on the Swap Shop for allowing such abuse to be placed upon its vulnerable patrons!
Action: If you wish to contact the Swap Shop to provide an opinion on this matter, you can do so by calling 954-791-7927. Please be respectful in any and all communications.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.