Convicted Member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Participates at CAIR 2021 Gala

Hatem Fariz "conspired to commit offenses against the United States."

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).

CAIR likes to describe itself as an organization which protects the civil rights of the Muslim community. This deceptive description, however, completely ignores CAIR’s association with Palestinian terrorism. Indeed, the group is rooted in Palestinian terror. This month, CAIR’s Florida chapter held a virtual conference, its 20th anniversary fundraising gala. Partaking in the event was convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Hatem Fariz. It is just one example of CAIR exhibiting its true nature.

CAIR or the Council on American-Islamic Relations was founded, in June 1994, as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s US Palestine Committee, under the leadership of then-global head of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook. In 2007 and 2008, the US government named CAIR a co-conspirator for two federal trials dealing with the raising of millions of dollars for Hamas. The group being prosecuted (and soon convicted) was CAIR’s fellow member of the Palestine Committee, the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), a Hamas charity that CAIR had raised money for.

CAIR-Florida has not strayed far from the terrorist disposition of its national parent organization. In July 2014, CAIR-Florida was the co-sponsor of a pro-Hamas rally held outside the Israeli Consulate in Downtown Miami. Rally goers repeatedly shouted “We are Hamas,” “Let’s go Hamas,” and “Hamas kicked your ass.” Following the rally, the event organizer, Sofian Zakkout, wrote in Arabic, “Thank God, every day, we conquer the American Jews like our conquests over the Jews of Israel!”

CAIR-Florida’s annual gala was held on October 16th. The title of the event was ‘20 YEARS OF SERVICE: Your CAIR-Florida Story.’ Working off the title, a number of speakers were introduced with the words, “My CAIR-Florida Story.” Ironically, CAIR may very well have taken the idea for its theme from the US Israel lobby group, AIPAC, which, for years, has used the same exact theme, titled ‘My AIPAC Story.’

The gala contained different ‘feel good’ elements (i.e. ‘useful idiots’), meant to legitimize CAIR and hide the group’s extremist reality. Its participants included Hillsborough County public school teacher Alexis Cranendonk, who brought a CAIR leader to speak about Islam to several classrooms – totaling nearly 400 students – and American Red Cross executive assistant Shayra Rosario, who partnered with CAIR to provide Islamic training (‘Islam 101’) to all of her Red Cross staff and volunteers. Cranendonk and Rosario appear clueless, when it comes to CAIR’s links to terror, and unwittingly became CAIR’s partners in dawah (Islamic outreach).

One of the featured speakers for the gala was Hatem Naji Fariz, the Director of the Islamic Community of Tampa (ICT). Fariz also starred in an ad for the gala, in which he mentioned a “dark time of our community,” when he was “targeted by the government.” The government’s targeting of him was the result of his involvement with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a terrorist outfit that, like Hamas, has used suicide bombings and launched rockets to target Israeli civilians and, like Hamas, is found on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).

According to the indictment against him, Fariz “was a PIJ member” and did “conspire… to commit offenses against the United States… by making and receiving contributions of funds, goods, and services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” Fariz pled guilty and was sentenced, in July 2006, and spent nearly four years in prison.

ICT, a.k.a. Masjid al-Qassam, was the sole sponsor of CAIR-Florida’s gala. The mosque was founded by Sami al-Arian, a university professor who set up the Southwest Florida PIJ terror network that both Fariz and the mosque were a part of. Al-Arian, as well, was involved with the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), yet another Palestine Committee alum. At a 2017 CAIR media brunch, then-CAIR-Florida Executive Director Hassan Shibly said that CAIR-Florida depends on ICT for “programs, fundraising” and more. He said, “Really, we couldn’t do the work without the tremendous support we get from the mosque.”

Al-Arian, who, like Fariz, was convicted for his involvement in PIJ, was the subject of an August 2020 CAIR-Florida video absurdly claiming that he, a leader of a terrorist organization, suffered “civil rights abuses,” the catch-all phrase used by Islamists to discredit terror prosecutions. The group did the same, in December 2020, for the Hamas-related defendants of the Holy Land Foundation trials. CAIR said the HLF officials too endured “civil rights abuses.”

CAIR-Florida’s Communications Director Wilfredo Amr Ruiz was also a speaker for the group’s fundraising gala. This month, on his Facebook page, Ruiz posted a graphic of a painting “honoring” the six Palestinian criminals who recently escaped an Israeli prison. Of the six, five are members of PIJ and one is a commander in the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (AMB), another group widely-recognized as a terrorist organization. These are murderous terrorists, not the political prisoners or freedom fighters that Ruiz would suggest.

CAIR fanatically conflates Palestinian terror and Muslim subversive activities with civil rights. By calling themselves a civil rights organization, CAIR operates behind a humanitarian façade, while the group aids and abets fear, destruction and violence.

CAIR has been rightfully designated as an illegal terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates – not a civil rights organization but a terrorist group. The United States should follow suit and put an end to CAIR’s operations. If Hamas and PIJ are on the US list of terror entities, CAIR belongs there as well.

Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.

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