A South Florida Muslim group is urging members of its community to buy from fellow Muslims. But is this an example of community empowerment, or an effort at exclusion and self-segregation?
The #BuyMuslim campaign is the brainchild of the South Florida Muslim Federation (SFMF), an organization which describes itself as the “unified platform” of over three dozen Muslim organizations in the South Florida area. On January 2, 2019, the new executive director Nezar Hamze announced that the #BuyMuslim campaign was a key priority of the organization. The campaign is facilitated by a business portal which allows Muslim-owned businesses to list their companies on the website.
The #BuyMuslim Campaign is multi-faceted. Business owners are encouraged to participate in the campaign by listing their company and their job postings on the South Florida Muslim Federation business portal. Consumers are encouraged to participate in the campaign by purchasing from Muslim-owned businesses listed on the business portal and job seekers are encouraged to post their resumes on the portal and seek jobs and internships.
The portal features companies in a wide range of industries including retail clothing, accounting, finance, e-commerce, and real estate. According to the South Florida Muslim Federation website, the objective of the effort is to “keep the Muslim dollar circulating in the Muslim community.”
Some businesses, such as halal groceries, have an obvious incentive to seek out an exclusively Muslim audience. But other industries are more fraught with regulations; for example in real estate, where fair housing laws preclude discrimination on the basis of religion.
Perhaps more concerning than the exclusivity of the #BuyMuslim campaign effort is the background of those leading the effort.
The SFMF executive director Nezar Hamze has been a longstanding black mark on the reputation of the Broward County Sheriff’s office, where Hamze is a deputy sheriff. Hamze faces continued criticism for his relationship with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Hamze was formerly Regional Operations director for Council on American Islamic Relations-Florida. Federal prosecutors demonstrated during the Holy Land Foundation trial in 2008 that CAIR was formed by members of the Muslim Brotherhood as part of an effort to support the terrorist organization Hamas. Multiple CAIR employees have been convicted of terror-related offenses.
Shireen Qudosi, a Muslim reformer who writes about faith, identity, and violent extremism, warns of what she calls Islamists’ “exclusionary practices.”
“Let’s be clear about what #BuyMuslim is: an Islamist extremist agenda cloaked as a pseudo ‘woke’ narrative. These initiatives not only stab the fabric of American identity but they’re also circling the wagons around what it means to be Muslim,” says Qudosi. Despite Islamists’ efforts, Qudosi says, “most American Muslims have little to no interest in being corralled into an ideological concentration camp.”
While they may not speak for the majority of South Floridian Muslims, the South Florida Muslim Federation’s membership consists of several major mosques and organizations, including the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, and the Darul Uloom Institute in Pembroke Pines, with ties to extremism.
The Islamic Center of Boca Raton’s Syrian-born Bassem Halabi publicly advocated cutting off the hands of thieves, saying that sharia law was superior to western democracy in preventing criminal activity.
The Darul Uloom Institute of Pembroke Pines has a long history of extremist ties. The mosque was attended by the Dirty Bomber Jose Padilla. Mosque leader Sheikh Shafayat Mohamed published a 2005 sermon in which he blamed the 2004 Indonesian tsunami on the practice of homosexuality. Other terrorists linked to the Darul Uloom Institute include Adnan el Shukhrijumah. In 2010, El Shukrijumah, who was a former prayer leader at the mosque, and two other members of the mosque were linked to a 2009 plot to blow up New York City’s subway system. El Shukrijumah was later killed in a Pakistani military operation.
Other SFMF members include the relief arms of the U.S.-based front for the South Asian Islamist group Jammat-e-Islami, ICNA Relief, and Helping Hands for Relief and Development (HHRD) along with the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic Relief. All three groups have been accused of funding entities linked to terrorism.
Given these troubling ties, the South Florida Muslim Federation’s #BuyMuslim campaign suggests an attempt by Islamists to segregate the Muslim community from the larger South Florida community. South Floridians should oppose efforts by Islamists to divide and control their Muslim neighbors.
Rebecca Witonsky is the South Florida Associate of the Counter Islamist Grid.
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