Following the October 2018 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania synagogue shooting, which left eleven people dead and seven injured, there was a genuine desire for communities to come together to begin the healing process. Temple Sinai of Palm Beach County, located in Delray Beach, Florida, held its own event regarding the shooting, an ‘Interfaith Vigil of Healing and Hope.’ Representing the Muslim community at the event were two individuals with very controversial lives, one, the leader of an extremist group who has used social media to spread anti-Semitism, and the other, an activist who once joked about threatening to blow up a school.
On the evening of October 30, 2018, Temple Sinai of Palm Beach County hosted an interfaith memorial service for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that had taken place just a few days before. Speaking for the Muslim community were Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) national representative Abdul Rauf Khan and South Florida Director of Emgage and former ICNA relief volunteer Syed Ammar Ahmed.
ICNA was founded in September 1968 as the American affiliate of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), South Asia’s largest Islamist group. JI’s militant wing, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), owned the Pakistani compound where Osama bin Laden was living and eventually killed in. ICNA, itself, has been linked to terrorist financing and has used the internet to promote terror organizations, including Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In November 2013, former ICNA Secretary General, Ashrafuzzaman Khan, was sentenced to death for his role in the murders of 18 people as a death squad leader during Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Independence. In July 2014, ICNA co-sponsored a pro-Hamas rally outside the Israeli Consulate, in downtown Miami, Florida, where rally goers repeatedly shouted, “We are Hamas,” “Let’s go Hamas,” and “Hamas kicked your ass.”
Abdul Rauf Khan is the Assistant Executive Director of ICNA’s main humanitarian effort ICNA Relief and Secretary of both ICNA Florida and ICNA Relief Florida. On numerous occasions, Khan has used social media to propagate bigotry and extremism. His targets have included Jews and homosexuals.
In July 2014, Khan posted a link on his Facebook page to an anti-Semitic video labeling comedian talk show host Bill Maher, “Zionist Jew Bill Maher.” In April 2015, Khan promoted videos of rabid anti-Semite and Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan. In November 2015, Khan posted a video on Facebook glorifying a member of Hezbollah as a “hero.”
In October 2017, Khan posted a video on Twitter, titled, ‘Why and How Music became Haraam [forbidden],’ in which popular Muslim cleric Ismail ibn Musa Menk (a.k.a. Mufti Menk) makes the wild claim that listening to music is Satanic and can lead to murder. In March 2018, Khan posted a video, titled, ‘Why is it haram to actively be gay?’ The video was produced by the OnePath Network, a Muslim dawah (outreach) media outlet based in Sydney, Australia that promotes the banned and fervently anti-homosexual group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT).
On top of Khan’s Facebook page – Khan’s ‘Cover Photo’ – is an advertisement for a February ICNA event containing the image and name of one of the event’s featured speakers, Monzer Taleb. On a video that was submitted as evidence for the US government’s prosecution of the Hamas charity Holy Land Foundation (HLF), the trials of which took place in 2007 and 2008, Taleb sings, “O Jew, O coward… I am from Hamas and have never cheered for anyone else besides her.” In August 2014, Taleb posted a graphic on Facebook referring to a militant from Hamas as a “superhero” with the caption, “A SUPERHERO ALWAYS WEARS A MASK.”
Ammar Ahmed is a Muslim activist based in Sunrise, Florida and the South Florida Director of Emgage (formerly Emerge USA), an Islamist group that attempts to pass its extremist agenda off as political advocacy. In February 2010, following a debate he participated in at a school, of which he was not happy with the outcome, Ahmed stated on Facebook that he “hates white people” and joked that he “should have threatened to blow up the school.” In March 2013, Ahmed, who has written of his fondness for Socialism, mourned the death of former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, saying, “My boy Chavez is dead… We lost a great man today.”
On the dais (stage) in Temple Sinai, to the right of Khan and Ahmed as they spoke – not unlike many other synagogues – stood an Israeli flag. This is ironic, as both Khan and Ahmed are vehemently anti-Israel. Indeed, this past May, Khan posted on his Facebook page a propaganda video referring to the creation of Israel as the Nakba (Catastrophe) and that uses revisionist history to falsely paint Israel as an illegitimate entity.
In November 2018, less than a month after Temple Sinai’s Pittsburgh shooting vigil with ICNA, the synagogue participated in an ‘Interfaith Thanksgiving Service’ with another radical Muslim group, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR). The event was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, in Delray Beach.
ICBR was incorporated in October 1998. Among its founders were Hamas web designer Syed Khawer Ahmad; current ICBR President Bassem Alhalabi, who is a former assistant to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Sami al-Arian and who, in June 2003, was charged by the US Commerce Department with illegally shipping a $13,000 thermal imaging device to Syria; and ICBR’s first imam Ibrahim Dremali, who spent time on the federal ‘no fly’ list and who, in October 2010, was arrested by federal immigration agents and charged with marriage fraud.
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 described Jews as “people of treachery and betrayal” and “enemies.” It quoted the ‘Prophet’ Muhammad, saying a “Day of Judgment” will come when Muslims will “fight the Jews and kill them.”
In January 2000, ICBR received $600 thousand in seed money for a brand new 27,000-square-foot mosque from the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), an al-Qaeda-related charity that was shut down by the Bush Administration the following year, in December 2001.
The extreme backgrounds of Abdul Rauf Khan, Ammar Ahmed, ICNA and ICBR were either overlooked by Temple Sinai or deliberately ignored. In their quest to bring about the healing of wounds and/or the celebration of holidays, those involved with the synagogue have succeeded in opening even deeper wounds. They have allowed themselves and, to an even greater extent, the Jewish community as a whole to be exploited, in an attempt to legitimize the existence and behavior of radical Muslim organizations and their equally fanatical operatives.
While the damage has been done, these events should be taken as cautionary tales. The next time Temple Sinai of Palm Beach County or any other house of worship looks to create an interfaith event, it should first research whether or not the groups or people they are giving a forum to or sharing a platform with are friends or enemies. No doubt, in the above cases, it was the latter.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.