Wilfredo Amr Ruiz is fervently involved with groups that incite terror and bigotry. So why would the University of Miami allow him to participate in a commencement ceremony for its students and subject them to prejudice and propaganda in the name of interfaith representation? School officials have much to answer for.
On December 15, 2016, the University of Miami (UM) held its 2016 Commencement Ceremony at UM’s Convocation Center. The commencement ceremony is meaningful recognition for the years of hard work students put in during their time at the university. It would have been a special day for all in the graduating class had it not been for one controversial speaker who, in this author’s opinion, marred the event by giving the opening invocation for the ceremony.
That speaker was radical Muslim activist Wilfredo Ruiz, who shared the stage with a rabbi and a priest. In one photo from the event – a ‘selfie’ – the three of them are smiling alongside the President of UM and former Secretary of Health of Mexico, Julio Jose Frenk Mora. The rabbi, Lyle Rothman, has used an Israeli flag as the ‘cover photo’ for his Facebook page at least five times. Rothman will probably not be thrilled to find out that Ruiz is associated with Hamas and anti-Semitism and labels the Jewish state “the Apartheid beast.”
Ruiz is the Communications Director for the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). For the commencement ceremony, CAIR referred to him as “CAIR-Florida Chaplain.
CAIR 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, along with ISIS and al-Qaeda, CAIR 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 as its parent group. In August 2014, CAIR-Florida Executive Director Hassan Shibly, who has denied Hezbollah is a terrorist group, wrote, “Israel and its supporters are enemies of God…” 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 Abdelaziz Zakkout, wrote, “Thank God, every day we conquer the American Jews like our conquests over the Jews of Israel!”
Sofian Zakkout is the President of the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), one of the other co-sponsors of the 2014 pro-Hamas rally. Zakkout is a known supporter of Hamas, stating in August 2015, “Hamas is in my heart and on my head.” Wilfredo Ruiz is the legal advisor for AMANA and founded the Puerto Rico and Connecticut chapters of the group. Ruiz is additionally a Corporate Director for AMANA’s sister organization, American Muslims for Emergency and Relief (AMER), another co-sponsor of the pro-Hamas rally.
AMANA, which is based in South Florida, actively uses the internet to propagate material vilifying Jews, Christians and homosexuals. In one article previously found on AMANA’s website, it is stated, “Every believer should firmly believe that the Jews and Christians are kuffaar [infidels] and enemies of Allaah, His deen, the Prophet Muhammad, and the Believers… The efforts to gain the friendship of the Jews and Christians are useless, as they will never be pleased with the Muslims until the Muslims follow their religion.”
Currently, AMANA is promoting on its website and Facebook page videos of white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. In July 2010, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned AMANA for posting onto its website homepage a blatantly anti-Semitic Duke Video. The ADL described the video as being “venomous.” The video was posted right above an expose about Ruiz. AMANA President Sofian Zakkout has described Duke as “David Duke, a man to believe in!” and has said of Duke, “I respect him for his honesty!”
In November, Ruiz posted onto his Facebook page a photo of himself shoulder-to-shoulder with Zakkout at the Miami, Florida AMANA office, writing, “Solving the world problems with my dear brother Sofian Zakkout.” Apart from his embrace of Hamas and his adoration for David Duke, Zakkout has repeatedly referred to Jews as “monkeys and pigs” and has used social media to spread the claim that the “Holocaust was faked.”
This month, Ruiz posted on Facebook a photo of himself with CAIR’s Hezbollah terror denier Hassan Shibly and the President of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR) Bassem Alhalabi. Alhalabi co-founded ICBR with Hamas web designer Syed Khawer Ahmad. Prior to arriving in Boca, Alhalabi was an assistant to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Sami al-Arian, while al-Arian was setting up PIJ in the US. In June 2003, the US Department of Commerce charged Alhalabi with illegally shipping a $13,000 military-grade thermal imaging device to Syria.
Next to the photo, which was taken at the Meza Mediterranean Grill & Bar in Boca, Ruiz wrote, “Alhamdulillah for the good times among beautiful brothers… strong supporters of CAIR-Florida. May Allah always bless them and their families, Amiin!” The three, along with Zakkout, were all together, this past November, in Coral Springs, Florida, at CAIR-Florida’s annual banquet, to hear featured speaker Siraj Wahhaj, the imam of Brooklyn, New York’s At-Taqwa Mosque and, according to the US government, a party to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
You can tell a lot about someone from the company he keeps. Wilfredo Amr Ruiz’s company speaks volumes. And his leadership within groups associated with Hamas and David Duke says so much more.
For the University of Miami to allow someone like Ruiz to speak at an event as important to its students and faculty as its Commencement Ceremony is both alarming and detrimental to the institution’s credibility. This is indeed a mark of shame for the school.
UM has clearly failed its students and faculty by hosting Ruiz and, in doing so, has implied tacit approval of his radical activities and associations, which pose a threat to both local and national security.
If you wish to voice your opinion on this matter, you may contact the office of UM President Julio Frenk, by phone at 305-284-5155 or by email at [email protected]. Please be respectful in any and all communications with President Frenk and his staff.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.