CAIR or the Council on American-Islamic Relations began as an extremist organization with ties to terrorism, and over two decades later, the group remains the same, refusing to change. This was evidenced this past month, as the Florida chapter of CAIR held annual fundraising banquets in two separate locations, Coral Springs and Tampa, each featuring speakers associated with terror. They include an imam tied to those involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the manager of a mosque with ties to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
CAIR was created in June 1994 as part of a terrorist umbrella organization led by then-global head of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook. In 2007 and 2008, CAIR was named a co-conspirator by the US Justice Department for two federal trials dealing with the financing of millions of dollars to Hamas. In November 2014, along with ISIS and al-Qaeda, the UAE government named CAIR to its list of terrorist organizations. A number of CAIR officials have been placed in prison and/or deported from the US for terror-related activity.
CAIR’s Florida chapter does little to distinguish itself from its DC-based parent.
In July 2014, CAIR-Florida co-sponsored a pro-Hamas rally in Downtown Miami, where rally goers shouted, “We are Hamas,” “Let’s go Hamas,” and “Hamas kicked your ass.” Following the rally, the event organizer, Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout, wrote, “Thank God, every day we conquer the American Jews like our conquests over the Jews of Israel!” In August 2014, CAIR-Florida Executive Director Hassan Shibly, who has denied that Hezbollah is a terrorist group, wrote, “Israel and its supporters are enemies of God...”
In November 2012, when Israel launched a war against Hamas in Gaza, after Hamas had rained thousands of rockets down on Israeli civilians, CAIR-Florida Legislative & Government Affairs Director Laila Abdelaziz tweeted, “Don’t worry ya Gaza, we’re working hard for you in Florida.” CAIR-Florida’s Orlando Regional Operations Coordinator, Rasha Mubarak, retweeted her, adding, “Yes we are!” Two days later, Mubarak wrote, “Lies I’m tired of hearing: Israel has the right to defend herself.”
On Saturday, November 19th in Coral Springs and Saturday, December 3rd in Tampa, CAIR-Florida held its 2016 annual banquets. Emceeing both events was the Executive Director of CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter, Zahra Billoo.
Billoo has written that “one amazing reason to get married” is to “raise fighters” to attack Israel. She wrote that “to celebrate Columbus [Day] is… the same as having Jews celebrate Hitler and the Holocaust,” and she has referred to US troops as “scum.” Billoo proudly announced on her blog that her younger brother, Ahmed, was quoted in an article voicing support for suicide bombings. Billoo wrote that she, herself, contemplated suicide, after viewing a pro-Israel ad on a San Francisco train.
The keynote speakers for both events were Georgetown professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies, John Esposito, a notorious apologist for radical Islam, and the imam of Brooklyn, New York’s At-Taqwa Mosque and former member of CAIR’s National Board of Advisers, Siraj Wahhaj.
In 1995, along with Osama bin Laden and bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam, Wahhaj was named by the US government as an “unindicted co-conspirator” for a federal trial dealing with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, an act which resulted in the deaths of six civilians and injuries to over 1000 others. Wahhaj had been linked to the bomb-maker of the attack, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, and during the trial, he was a character witness for the spiritual leader of the attack, the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, whom Wahhaj has openly praised.
Also speaking at the Tampa banquet was the Manager of the al-Qassam Mosque a.k.a. Islamic Community of Tampa (ICT), Hatem Naji Fariz. Al-Qassam was established by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Sami al-Arian and named after Izzedin al-Qassam, the individual who was the inspiration for PIJ’s founding.
In July 2006, Fariz pled guilty in federal court to providing services to associates of PIJ. According to the indictment against him and five others, one being al-Arian, 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.”
While there were serious problems with the types of individuals standing at the podium, there were equally alarming persons seated in the audience, attending the two functions. One in particular was the above mentioned Sofian Zakkout.
Different photos from the Coral Springs banquet portray CAIR-Florida’s Communications Director and spokesman for Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen’s terror-tied Fort Pierce mosque, Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, with his arms wrapped around Zakkout and giant smiles wrapped around both their faces. According to his official CAIR bio, apart from his positions with CAIR, Ruiz is also the legal advisor of Zakkout’s organization, American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), and the founder of the AMANA chapters of Puerto Rico and Connecticut.
AMANA actively uses the internet to propagate material vilifying Jews, Christians and homosexuals. In July 2010, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned AMANA for posting an anti-Semitic video onto its official website produced by and featuring white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The ADL described the video as “venomous.” AMANA continues to this day to promote Duke on social media. Zakkout, AMANA’s President, has described Duke as “a man to believe in!” and has said of Duke, “I respect him for his honesty!”
AMANA certainly is a reflection of its leadership. Besides David Duke, Sofian Zakkout also promotes terrorist groups, including Hamas and al-Qaeda. In August 2015, he wrote in Arabic on Facebook, “Hamas is in my heart and on my head.” This past March, he posted a graphic featuring a montage of deceased terrorist leaders, including Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin and Osama bin Laden. In addition, Zakkout repeatedly refers to Jews as “monkeys and pigs” and has posted onto social media material claiming that the “the Holocaust was faked.”
Additionally, at the banquets, two terror-related ‘charities,’ ICNA Relief and Islamic Relief, were provided spaces to advertise themselves.
ICNA Relief is a function of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the American affiliate of South Asian Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). JI’s militant wing, Hizbul Mujahideen, owned the Pakistani compound where Osama bin Laden was killed. ICNA has been linked to terrorist financing and has used the web to promote different terrorist groups, including Hamas, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Taliban. ICNA conducts annual functions along with the Muslim American Society (MAS), which like CAIR, is a UAE designated terrorist organization.
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. At the end of 2014, Britain’s HSBC bank cut ties with Islamic Relief over concerns about “terrorist financing.” 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 two banquets held by CAIR- Florida should never have taken place and would not have if this designated terror group had been shut down and denied a venue. It should be clear to everyone that the people involved in these functions are actively inciting violence and bigotry.
It is high time that our government and law enforcement crack down on terror-associated entities, such as CAIR, AMANA, ICNA and Islamic Relief, for posing threats to national security and to the safety of all law abiding citizens.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.