Last month, Broward County Vice Mayor Martin “Marty” Kiar and Commissioner Barbara Sharief became Mayor Martin Kiar and Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief. Five months prior, in June, both Broward officials made videos of themselves voicing statements in support of Emerge USA. While the group has an innocuous – even Patriotic sounding – name, Emerge USA is actually a radical Muslim organization with links to terrorism and bigotry. Either Kiar and Sharief didn’t vet the group they were associating themselves with properly or they didn’t care.
On Kiar’s video, his statement read in part, “I’m here with my great friends from Emerge, who are doing a great job advocating for some wonderful things, and I just wanted to thank you for all the hard work that Emerge is doing for our community and to continuously encourage you to keep getting involved… [T]he best way to effectuate change is when good folks like yourself reach out to us and tell us how to do a better job for the community.”
On Sharief’s video, she stated, “I’m Commissioner Barbara Sharief from District 8 in Broward County, and I support Emerge USA. Emerge USA has a longstanding benefit in our community, and I encourage you all to come out, get involved, and be active in participating in Islamic culture.”
“Great friends;” “great job;” “wonderful things;” “hard work;” “longstanding benefit in our community” – these are things you say about an exceptional and upstanding organization. These are certainly not things you say about a radical Muslim group, but that is exactly what Emerge USA is.
Emerge USA is the brainchild of Khurrum Wahid, a South Florida attorney who has built his name on representing high profile terrorists. His clients include members of al-Qaeda and financiers of the Taliban. Wahid previously served as a legal advisor for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Hamas-related group that was named a terrorist organization by the government of United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to the Miami New Times, Wahid himself was placed on a federal terrorist watch list in 2011.
Emerge USA has sponsored events at radical mosques. This past June, Emerge sponsored an iftar (break-the-fast) dinner at the Darul Uloom mosque, in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Several al-Qaeda terrorists have spent time at Darul Uloom. “Dirty Bomber” Jose Padilla was a student at the mosque, and now-deceased al-Qaeda Global Operations Chief Adnan el-Shukrijumah was a prayer leader there. The imam of Darul Uloom, Maulana Shafayat Mohamed, has been thrown off a number of boards in Broward County for his outspokenness against homosexuals.
In September 2014, Emerge held an event at the al-Qassam Mosque (a.k.a. Islamic Community of Tampa), the mosque established by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader and former client of Khurrum Wahid, Sami al-Arian. Al-Qassam is named after Izzedin al-Qassam, the individual who was the inspiration for PIJ’s founding. The event was organized by then-Emerge Regional Director Laila Abdelaziz. While with Emerge, in November 2012, when Israel went to war with Hamas in Gaza, Abdelaziz wrote, “Don’t worry ya Gaza, we’re working hard for you in Florida.”
Kiar and Sharief are not the only ones to make videos for Emerge. In April 2014, Islamic lecturer and follower of Iranian terror leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Sayed Ammar Nakshawani, did a video for Emerge. He did so prior to giving a speech at one of the group’s annual fundraising banquets, where Sharief spoke as well. In another speech made by Nakshawani, then-posted on his personal website, titled ‘Sayed Khomeini’s Quds Day,’ Nakshawani called for the destruction of Israel, stating, “It is barbaric that this Zionist state is allowed to continue.”
Barbara Sharief is no stranger to participating in radical Muslim events. In October 2013, she attended an affair sponsored by the American affiliate of Islamic Relief (IRUSA). The event was titled ‘Day of Dignity’ and was run by representatives of the Florida chapter of CAIR. Photos from the event show Sharief posing with CAIR leaders Nezar Hamze and Ghazala Salam and participating in an award ceremony. [Kiar has also been photographed with Hamze.] Islamic Relief, like CAIR, has been named a terrorist organization by the UAE government.
Islamic Relief’s ties to terror are well known. The Russian government has accused Islamic Relief of supporting terrorism in Chechnya. Israel has banned the group, labeling it a Hamas front and arresting the organization’s Gaza Program Manager, Ayaz Ali, in 2006, for providing assistance to Hamas. Reports show that Islamic Relief has sent millions of dollars to and received tens of thousands of dollars from groups related to al-Qaeda.
The Chairman of IRUSA is Khaled Lamada. Lamada is also the co-chairman of the Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society (ICNA-MAS) national convention. ICNA has been linked to terrorist financing and has used the web to promote a number of terrorist groups, including Hamas, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Taliban. MAS, like CAIR and Islamic Relief, has been named to the UAE government’s list of terrorist organizations. Lamada has used social media to advocate for such groups as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
According to campaign finance records, in June 2014, Emerge USA PAC gave $750 to Sharief’s campaign.
For Mayor Kiar and Vice Mayor Sharief to be involved with such groups as Emerge, Islamic Relief and CAIR is deeply disturbing. Sharief, a Muslim herself – full name Barbara Muhammad Sharief – should understand more than anyone how radical Islam has affected her community and should look to reject its manifestations (and its money) not embrace them, as she and her Mayoral superior Kiar apparently have.
In her Emerge video, Sharief says that she wishes for these radicals to be “active in participating in Islamic culture,” yet this is precisely the toxic combination – fanatics coupled with the religion – that has generated the problem in the first place. It is this combination that has resulted in bigotry and violence worldwide, and it should be repudiated by the Mayor’s office and shunned by civil society.
If you wish to contact Mayor Martin Kiar to voice your opinion, you can do so by calling 954-357-7001 or by emailing [email protected]. If you wish to contact Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief, you can do so by calling 954-357-7008 or by emailing [email protected]. Please be respectful in any and all communications with these individuals.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.