This past August, the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sponsored a roundtable event featuring a meal at the American Islamic Center of Florida (AICF) located in Pompano Beach, Florida. Representing CAIR was the group’s Regional Operations Director, Nezar Hamze. Representing the mosque was its imam, Mohamad al-Ali al-Halabi, aka Mohamad al-Fouani. It was an interesting dynamic, given the background of the two, Hamze being from a group associated with Hamas and al-Halabi being a devotee of Hezbollah.
While Hamas and Hezbollah are both Muslim terrorist organizations and both enjoy financing from their Iranian backers, at best they disassociate from one another and at worst they are bitter rivals. Their animus for one another is best exhibited in the ongoing conflict in Syria, where leaders of Hamas, a Sunni faction, have supported the ‘Arab Spring’ rebellion against Bashar al-Assad and Hamas militants have joined in the rebellion and members of Hezbollah, a Shiite faction, have fought alongside Assad against the rebellion.
Last August, though, two of Hamas and Hezbollah’s extended family set aside their differences and came together for a friendly roundtable discussion, sponsored by CAIR and held at the American Islamic Center of Florida, a Shiite mosque located in Pompano. The representative for CAIR, Nezar Hamze – the Regional Operations Director of CAIR’s Florida chapter – was even photographed with a big smile on his face.
CAIR or the Council on American-Islamic Relations was created in June 1994 as part of an umbrella group led by then-global head of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook. CAIR has been named by the US government a co-conspirator for two federal trials dealing with the financing of millions of dollars to Hamas. In November 2014, CAIR, as well, was designated a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government. Many CAIR representatives have served prison time and/or have been deported from the US for terrorist-related activity.
CAIR-Florida reflects the same violent extremism of its parent group. In July 2014, CAIR-Florida co-sponsored a pro-Hamas rally in Downtown Miami, where rally goers shouted, “We are Hamas” and “Let’s go Hamas.” 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!” Hamze, himself, has repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas, when given numerous chances to do so, stating “I’m not denouncing anybody. I’m not getting involved in the politics.”
AICF Imam Mohamad al-Halabi has taken a different radical path. According to a June 2010 posting he made onto social media, following Israel’s invasion of Beirut, Lebanon in 1982, al-Halabi had found himself at a volunteer recruitment office to be trained in how “to defend Lebanon” from what he calls “the Israeli enemy.” He said that, when he and his fellow recruits were asked why they were there, he and the others had one answer: “We want to fight, and we want to liberate Lebanon and Palestine. We want to die with dignity.”
Al-Halabi mentioned that, at the back of the volunteer line, there was a “helpless” and “crippled” man, who told him that he had been “a survivor of the October war.”
Following the Israeli siege against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Beirut, the government of Iran put up money to pay for recruitment centers for a new militant organization made up of religious Shiites called Hezbollah or Party of God, and its focus was in carrying out guerilla warfare against Israelis, who were conducting military activities in Lebanon. At the time, a large percentage of the Beirut population was Palestinian. The “October War” that the crippled man was speaking of was the Yom Kippur War, which took place in October 1973.
Shortly after the recruitments, in October 1983, a little over one year after Israel’s siege, Hezbollah staged an attack against US Marine barracks situated in Beirut, killing 241 American servicemen.
Al-Halabi’s association with Hezbollah continues to this day, as he has family involved with the terror group. This includes a favorite nephew, Ahmed Ali Haji, aka Ahmed HD, located in Damascus, Syria. When Ali Haji proclaimed his membership in Hezbollah, in February 2015, while posting a photo on his Facebook page containing a large Hezbollah logo and a militant aiming a rifle, under the photo, al-Halabi commented in Arabic, “May God protect you and grant you victory...”
Al-Halabi has used his own Facebook page to promote Hezbollah, displaying a number of Hezbollah videos. In September 2014, al-Halabi posted a video of a speech made by Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah. In his speech, Nasrallah refers to America as the “mother of terrorism” and the source of all terrorism in the world. Of this video, al-Halabi wrote, “Nice words.”
While CAIR’s Nezar Hamze and AICF’s Mohamad al-Halabi come from radically different sides of Islamic extremism – one from a Hamas-linked group, the other Hezbollah – the two have shown that, at least for a night, they could peaceably join together to further mutual interests and for pragmatic reasons as expressed in the proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It would appear that Hamze and al-Halabi are striving for a strategic partnership based on shared objectives.
Given their dangerous backgrounds, though, Hamze and al-Halabi’s friendly encounter should be viewed with suspicion and their activities monitored by law enforcement. Their discussions serve to strengthen their ties, which does not bode well for the tamping down of the terror hotbed that has taken root in Florida.
Politics makes strange bedfellows, and for CAIR and Hezbollah everything is justifiable in the furtherance of Islamic fanaticism.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.