For the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR) some things have changed and some have stayed the same. The center went from a storefront, where it began, to a nearly 30,000 square foot mosque. That was a huge change. It has also lost a number of imams along the way, a couple of whom have been charged with crimes. Many of the faces still remain, though, and so does the hate that was exhibited when the center was established over 15 years ago.
ICBR started as a result of an effort by the Muslim Student Organization (MSO) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and FAU Professor Bassem Alhalabi, who helped create the MSO. The founding directors of the center included three persons: Alhalabi, travel agency owner Khalid Qureshi, and then-FAU student Syed Ahmad, who was also a website designer for Hamas in Gaza.
Alhalabi, prior to getting his job at FAU, was an assistant to Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian, while they were together at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa.
Today, two out of the three, Alhalabi and Qureshi, are still directors at the mosque.
From October 1999 through September 2001 – roughly three years – the website of ICBR had an essay prominently posted on it, entitled ‘Why can’t the Jews and Muslims live together in peace?’
The essay stated, “There cannot be harmony between Jews – who are usurpers and aggressors, who have oppressed and persecuted others… 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… [Muhammad] said, ‘You will fight the Jews and will prevail over them, so that a rock will say, O Muslim! There is Jew behind me, kill him!’”
The imam of the center at the time, Ibrahim Dremali, claimed that the essay appearing on the center’s website was the result of hackers, even though much of the other material that had been on the site was derived from the same place that the essay came from, the violently anti-Semitic IslamQA.com.
Dremali’s rendition of the facts were contradicted by then-Spokesman for ICBR, Dan McBride, a Muslim convert who said that the only reason why they took the essay off the site was because they received numerous complaints about it.
Today, there is a new imam leading the mosque, Fathi Kalfi, but the rhetoric coming from him and another ICBR official shows that absolutely nothing regarding the center’s bigotry towards others has changed.
On the ICBR website, there is currently a section which allows one to listen to speeches given by the Islamic center’s leaders to the center’s congregants. The first page is for Fathi Kalfi, ICBR’s present imam. In his speech titled ‘Fitns after Prophet (pbuh) and Abu Baker (ra),’ he incorporates an anti-Semitc and anti-Christian message, in order to make a point about what is taking place in Syria.
Kalfi says, “Damascus – used to be the capitol of every Muslim from Yemen to Andalusia [Spain] to Heng [China]. All of them, the capitol was Damascus, so it has a special place in the hearts of believers. Today, it’s controlled by Batiniyah Nusairiyah [sect of Shiah Islam]… Batiniyah have the same steps; they have the same direction – the same goal. You know what’s their goal? Destroy Islam… Bathiniyah, Ibn Taymiyyah [an Islamic scholar] said they are worse than Jews and Christians. So their goal is to destroy Islam – kill the Muslims and occupy their land… But Allah al-Jenna will not let them, Inshallah, because they will be defeated soon.”
In a second speech, Kalfi rails against the West and complains about Muslims who adopt or admire anything coming from the West, even if it is something positive. In his ‘Fitns & Situation of Muslim Uma,’ he states, “Brothers and sisters, Muslims live in a time of fitn, temptations, religious innovations, time of myths and deviation. What made it worse, brothers and sisters, is the advancement of the West, especially in the worldly matter, which led some Muslims to get influenced by that and they started to glorify or embrace anything that comes from the West, either it’s good or bad.”
Kalfi later speaks about an end of time conspiracy, where Muslims will war against the West. If the imam were saying these things from overseas as a member of Isis or al-Qaeda, it would make more sense. But Kalfi is spewing his hate from Boca Raton, Florida, a symbol in America of Western affluence and containing a sizeable Jewish population.
Another page on ICBR contains the speeches of Mounir Bourkiza, the General Manager at Garden of the Sahaba Academy, ICBR’s children’s school. In his speech to the congregants, titled ‘Major Shirk,’ he states that Christian belief is “nonsense.”
Bourkiza says in the speech, “Or as the Christians believe… They apply the same characteristics of the creation of a human to Allah al-Jenna. They say Allah is the father and he has a son and all this kind of nonsense.”
Most probably due to past infractions, which included a link from the ICBR website to a site raising funds and recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda and the Taliban, ICBR has taken the step of placing a disclaimer on its website’s ‘About Us’ page. What is both interesting and ironic is that the mosque put, at the end of the disclaimer, a statement regarding anti-Semitism. It reads, “It must be clear that ICBR condemns Anti-Semitism whether it originates from Muslim, or any other sources.”
Evidently, ICBR does not condemn anti-Semitism enough, because the mosque’s own imam actively spreads anti-Semitism, and the mosque is so proud of it that it moved to place the anti-Semitic content on its website for everyone to listen to. And not only has the imam targeted Jews, but both he and the GM of the ICBR children’s school have targeted Christians as well.
Furthermore, Kalfi has spoken out against the entire West, where he happens to reside, which only adds to the disturbing nature of his statements, as his words can incite listeners to commit hateful and violent acts on our own shores.
One former ICBR congregant who appeared to have been influenced by the extremism of ICBR is Dr. Rafiq Sabir. Today, Sabir is serving out a 25-year prison sentence for swearing allegiance to and providing material support to al-Qaeda.
No one can use the excuse now that the ICBR website has been hacked, because the hate statements presently found on it were made by those representing ICBR themselves, making the disclaimer seem more an exercise in deception than transparency.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.