Radical Mosque Removed as Voting Site Hosting Candidate Forum Today
What kind of politicians attend events held at a center built on terror and bigotry?
Last month, following complaints from the public, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher reversed her decision and withdrew the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR), a radical mosque, as a polling site for the upcoming 2016 elections. Given the extensive history of bigotry and links to terrorism at ICBR, one would think that this would spell an end to political activity within the mosque. But just one month later, the mosque is set to host a candidate forum, and the group sponsoring the event, Emerge USA, has its own extremist story.
Emerge USA is a radical Muslim group which tries to mask its Islamist agenda by claiming to be a political advocacy organization. The main individual behind Emerge is Khurrum Wahid, a South Florida attorney who has built his name on representing high profile terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda and financiers of the Taliban. The group holds events at mosques tied to terrorism. They include Tampa’s al-Qassam Mosque, which was founded by Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian, and Pembroke Pines’ Darul Uloom, which has served a number of al-Qaeda operatives and which is headed by an anti-gay imam, Maulana Shafayat Mohamed.
Today, Emerge will be sponsoring an event at another mosque associated with terrorism and hate, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton or ICBR. The event is being billed as a ‘Palm Beach Candidate Forum.’ This, while just one month ago, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, Susan Bucher, removed ICBR as a voter polling site for the upcoming 2016 elections. Bucher claimed that she removed the mosque over complaints from the community as well as a possible threat. However, there are much greater concerns that need to be addressed regarding the mosque.
The Islamic Center of Boca Raton was incorporated in October 1998. Its founding directors included Syed Khawer Ahmad, a web designer, who created the first official website for the Islamic Association, al-Jamia al-Islamiya, the charitable arm of Hamas. Another founding director, Bassem Alhalabi, who is currently ICBR President, was an assistant to Sami al-Arian at the University of South Florida (USF), while al-Arian was actively creating an infrastructure in the US for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In June 2003, the US Department of Commerce charged Alhalabi with illegally shipping a $13,000 military-grade thermal imaging device to Syria.
The founding imam of ICBR, Ibrahim Dremali, was placed on the federal ‘no fly’ list and was a local contact for the Southeast Division of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA-SE), while the group linked to the official websites of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban and solicited funds for a site recruiting fighters and raising funds for al-Qaeda. His replacement at ICBR, Muneer Arafat, was an admitted member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and former roommate of al-Qaeda operative Ziyad Khaleel, the man who delivered the satellite phone that was used by Osama bin Laden to plan the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
In May 2007, then-ICBR member Rafiq Sabir was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda. His good friend and main advocate at the mosque, then-ICBR spokesman Daniel “Abderahman” McBride, was arrested two years earlier for his role in a wide-ranging insurance fraud scheme.
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.’”
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-thousand-square-foot mosque, which is today the current ICBR. According to Ibrahim Dremali, who was a court witness for convicted GRF fundraiser Adham Amin Hassoun, ICBR gave close to $17 thousand to GRF in the year 2000. In December 2001, the US Treasury Department froze GRF’s funds, stating, “GRF has connections to, has provided support for, and has provided assistance to Usama Bin Ladin, the al Qaida Network, and other known terrorist groups.”
ICBR was founded and built – literally founded and built – on hatred and terror and continues unabated until today. To think of this mosque as a location to hold political events, whether using it for a polling place or a candidate forum, like it is being used today, is both dangerous and deranged.
No event should be held at ICBR. No politician or citizen should set foot in it. Its entire edifice should be declared off limits to every person of conscience on ethical and moral grounds.
The Islamic Center of Boca Raton is a proven breeding place for jihadism and violence. The mosque poses a safety threat to the people of Boca Raton and the United States. For the sake of national security, it is high time that ICBR ceased to operate and was permanently shut down.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.