On January 9, 2015, on the official website of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a press release was posted discussing the group’s hiring of two individuals to its staff, Laila Abdelaziz and Ali Akin Kurnaz. According to the release, “Laila Abdelaziz joined the CAIR Florida team as the Legislative and Government Affairs Director, and Ali Kurnaz joined [the] CAIR team as its Communications Coordinator.”
CAIR was established in June 1994 as being part of the American Palestine Committee, an umbrella organization acting as a terrorist enterprise run by then-global Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, who was based in the U.S. at the time and who now operates out of Egypt as a spokesman for Hamas. In 2007 and 2008, amidst two federal trials, the U.S. government named CAIR a co-conspirator in the raising of millions of dollars for Hamas. Along with ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, CAIR is listed as a terrorist organization by United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Both Abdelaziz and Kurnaz came to CAIR by way of Emerge USA, Abdelaziz being the Tampa-area Regional Field Coordinator of Emerge and Kurnaz being the Central Florida Regional Director of Emerge.
Emerge USA, like CAIR, has a friendly – even patriotic – sounding name, yet the reality of the organization is that it presents a dangerous facade. Emerge is a politically active Islamist group whose goal is to place radical Muslims into positions of influence and power.
The head of Emerge, Khurrum Wahid, who previously served as a legal advisor for CAIR, is a South Florida attorney who has built a name for himself by representing high profile terrorists. His past clients include: Rafiq Sabir, who received a 25 year prison sentence for conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda; Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who was given a life sentence for being a member of al-Qaeda and for plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush; and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian, who was deported to Turkey last month.
Abdelaziz and Kurnaz have their own troubling past, beyond their involvement with Emerge.
In January 2010, during a town hall meeting for Barack Obama, Ramallah-born Laila Abdelaziz denounced Israel in a question she posed to the President. “[W]hy have we not condemned Israel and Egypt’s human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people, and yet we continue supporting them financially with billions of dollars from our tax dollars?” she belligerently asked.
In November 2012, when Israel invaded Gaza, in order to stop Hamas from continuing to target her citizens with rockets – over 2000 rockets in less than one year – Abdelaziz tweeted, “Don’t worry ya Gaza, we’re working hard for you in Florida.”
This year, the extremism of Abdelaziz has continued unabated. In January, she retweeted threatening quotes made against Israel by the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.
As well, she described an interfaith initiative between Jews and Muslims as “flawed” and “comical,” and just one week ago, she labeled an article written by a Muslim girl about the girl’s recent trip to Israel, which was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), as “ridiculous.” The girl, Aliya Manjee, describes herself as “pro-Palestine,” but to Abdelaziz merely visiting Israel is a crime.
Abdelaziz’s counterpart at CAIR, Ali Kurnaz, is no less extreme.
In January 2009, during Israel’s previous incursion into Gaza, Kurnaz filmed and edited a video of a CAIR sponsored anti-Israel protest that had been held in Orlando. Kurnaz produced the video for a group called Liberated Front. On Kurnaz’s video, viewers repeatedly witness rally goers shout “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” It is the same slogan used in Gaza by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to call for Israel’s destruction. The river is the Jordan River, and the sea is the Mediterranean – both sides of Israel.
In July 2014, Kurnaz attacked U.S. Representative Ted Deutch, when Deutch sent a tweet against Hamas and in support of Israel’s right to defend herself. Deutch wrote, “As Hamas and other terrorists fire on Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and all of #Israel, I strongly support Israel’s actions to defend her citizens.” Kurnaz tweeted the following in reply to Deutch, “[T]hink before you tweet. Your lopsided message conveys your lack of understanding of this conflict.”
This past January, Kurnaz followed the Twitter account of an individual named Alexus Morales. Much of Morales’ Twitter is devoted to support for Hezbollah. Indeed, the header of Morales’ Twitter page is a Hezbollah flag.
None of this can be seen as controversial to Hassan Shibly, the Executive Director of CAIR-Tampa. In June 2011, the Tampa Tribune reported on previous statements Shibly had made regarding Hezbollah. Shibly had stated that Hezbollah was “basically a resistance movement” and “absolutely not a terrorist organization.”
What may be controversial to everyone, though, is a tweet by Ali Kurnaz, where he seemed to be admitting to abusing illegal drugs. He stated, “Instead of war on poverty, they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.” Question: Why do the police have reason to “bother” Kurnaz?
Regardless of the answer, with the hiring of Laila Abdelaziz and Ali Kurnaz, CAIR-Florida has continued to show why it is a danger to society. Given all the upheavals which are taking place involving Islamic extremist groups, closing down CAIR in the USA would appear to be a foregone conclusion.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.