Joe Kaufman, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, is Chairman of the Joe Kaufman Security Initiative and the 2014, 2016 and 2018 Republican Nominee for U.S. House of Representatives (Florida-CD23).
On July 25th, I sent an email to the members of the Palm Beach County School Board and Palm Beach Superintendent Michael Burke calling on three School Board members to give back awards they had received from the South Florida Muslim Federation (SFMF), an umbrella organization for numerous outfits associated with terror and bigotry. Attached to the email was an article I had written about the subject, ‘Palm Beach School Board Members Accept Awards from Islamist Group.’
The email was a success. Immediately, School Board Vice Chair Karen Brill, the most prominent of the three board members, called me to voice her alarm. The next day, during a conference call that included Vice Chair Brill, myself, the Director of the Kashmir Hindu Foundation Deepak Ganju, and two others from our side, Vice Chair Brill committed to return the award and to “never” have anything to do with the Muslim Federation again. Everyone on the conference call praised her for not hesitating to do the right thing.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the other two School Board members who had received the awards, Alexandria Ayala and Erica Whitfield. After numerous attempts to get in touch with them, including my speaking with each of their assistants, Ayala and Whitfield refused to meet with us and completely ignored our concerns. As a result, we organized a group of individuals to each give short speeches at the next public School Board meeting, which was scheduled for Wednesday, August 17th.
Upon arriving to the meeting, our group was greeted with School Board member Ayala praising the Muslim Federation and doubling down on her acceptance of the award. She stated, while displaying a photo of her and her fellow board members clutching the awards, “[I]n anticipation of some commentary we may hear later tonight, I will make it right now very clear that I stand in full solidarity with our colleagues at the South Florida Muslim Federation, who have been full collaborative partners of our district as parents and leaders.”
We were further greeted by School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri issuing a new rule for those attendees wishing to speak on non-agenda items. He stated, “The rules were passed out that we hope you’ll follow to keep this meeting moving smoothly as possible. One thing that’s not on your list that I’ve been asked to make sure, ‘cause I looked over some of the topics you’re gonna be discussing – We ask that, during your comments today, that you do not direct any of your comments to any particular board member… [I]f you have concerns about something the board has done, direct it at the board, not at a particular board member.”
Prior to me speaking, at least a half-dozen others mentioned School Board members by name, but it was only when, in the midst of my speech, I criticized Ayala and Whitfield by name that Chairman Barbieri let out a loud “Please don’t mention board members by name.” It appeared that Chairman Barbieri’s new rule was only meant to chill the speeches from our group.
The goal of our speeches was the same goal we had since the start of this process: to convince the School Board members to give back the awards. We were not there for any other reason, not to malign Muslims or criticize Islam and certainly not to complain about the School District’s recent decision to provide a day off on the school calendar for Ramadan – an unfounded lie that was broadcast about us by both the Palm Beach Post and CBS Channel 12 News. We were there because we believe it is inappropriate for public servants to accept awards from a group connected to terror and bigotry and to decry the conflict of interests created by doing so.
In my speech, I crammed in as many bullet points regarding the Muslim Federation’s links to extremism as I could fit within the allotted three minutes. They were as follows:
- Federation President Samir Kakli (the individual who presented the awards to the School Board members), this past May posted on Facebook that Israel is the “world’s leading terrorist organization.” That same month, Kakli participated in a rally, where he and others called for Israel’s destruction.
- The Federation’s Palm Beach Representative Abdul Rauf Khan has used his social media to post videos of Louis Farrakhan and videos vilifying gays and Jews.
- The Federation’s ex-Facebook manager, Abdul Rahman al-Ghani, posted on Facebook, that Jews are “demonic” and “If you are gay, you are not a Muslim, you are a stone cold kaffir outside the fold of Islam.”
- Federation member Masjid Jamaat-ul-Mumineen or MJAM currently has on its website that Jews and Christians are “enemies,” homosexuals must be put to death, men are “superior” to women, and if husbands fear disobedience from their wives, they are to “beat them.”
- Federation member Islamic Center of Boca Raton was founded by people linked to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad with seed money from an al-Qaeda charity and had on its website an essay labeling Jews “people of treachery” and discussed a Judgement Day when Muslims will “fight the Jews and kill them.”
- Federation member Darul Uloom’s founder and imam, Shafayat Mohamed, is a former teacher of al-Qaeda “Dirty Bomber” Jose Padilla and was thrown off numerous Broward County boards for denigrating homosexuals. He has claimed that natural disasters are caused by gay sex.
Corey Shearer, the Florida Outreach Lead for Emgage, a politically-active Islamist group and member of the Muslim Federation, also spoke. He took issue with me reading vile and bigoted quotes from those related to the Federation. He stated, “I don’t think you should be able to talk about people’s speech and vilify that and condemn them for that speech.” He told the School Board that they should be proud of some of those who I quoted, who, according to him, “may have said things that were inappropriate.” For Shearer, calling for the violence of and maligning gays and Jews is merely inappropriate, and people should be proud of those who do so.
Provided more time, my list of bullet points would have been significantly larger. It is indeed disturbing how many people and groups associated with the Muslim Federation are linked to violent hatred of others. And yet, this is the same organization that School Board member Ayala says she “stands in full solidarity” with and that those who belong to this organization are “full collaborative partners” of the district. By standing with the Muslim Federation, Alexandria Ayala is standing with terrorism, antisemitism and homophobia. And for the district to collaborate, in any way, with this entity, as Ayala claims, is scandalous and unacceptable.
Once more, we call on School Board members Alexandria Ayala and Erica Whitfield to follow their colleague, Vice Chair Karen Brill, and commit to returning the South Florida Muslim Federation awards and to never have anything to do with the Muslim Federation again. Ayala and Whitfield should stop legitimizing extremism and do the right thing, both for the citizens they serve and national security.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.