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).
This month, Tampa, Florida’s local news affiliates headed over to the al-Qassam Mosque, a.k.a. Islamic Community of Tampa (ICT), to get footage of the mosque and its director, Hatem Fariz, distributing food, in what ICT and these networks are claiming is an effort to help the neighborhood during the coronavirus crisis. Yet what these news outlets are ignoring, in the process, is the extensive terrorist history of ICT and Fariz. Any perceived goodwill coming from the two is nothing more than a cynical effort to whitewash their radical past and distract from their extremist present by exploiting the crisis for a ‘feel good’ photo op.
Fox, ABC and CBS were all on hand to take film footage of ICT’s community food distribution project, as titled by the mosque, ‘ICT Relief Program For All.’ The results were news puff pieces making ICT and its director appear as saints. Fox 13’s reporter Mark Wilson began his segment with the following: “We continue to see people all across the Tampa Bay area, who are really stepping up, to see people struggling and help them… We certainly found that today at the Tampa Bay Islamic Center. Fox anchor Kelly Ring ended the segment with, “What a blessing!”
ICT or al-Qassam was the brainchild of then-University of South Florida (USF) professor Sami al-Arian. The mosque was named after Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the man who was the inspiration for the founding of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Al-Arian, a co-founder of PIJ, had succeeded in creating a PIJ network throughout the Tampa-area. In April 2006, al-Arian pled guilty to conspiring to provide services to PIJ and later was deported from the US. He now makes his home in Turkey, where he is a professor at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University and the head of the school’s Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA).
Al-Arian has been using his social media to post the news puff pieces about ICT’s food distribution project. The videos share the same Facebook page as his post from January 29th, when he wrote the following above a map of the entire state of Israel: “This is Palestine and no ‘deal’ will ever change that fact.”
Hatem Naji Fariz is the Managing Director of ICT. He is, as well, in charge of the ICT food distribution project, and he has been interviewed for all of the news pieces concerning it.
In July 2006, Fariz pled guilty in federal court to providing services to associates of PIJ and received a 37-month prison sentence. According to the indictment against him, al-Arian and six others, 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.”
The indictment further stated that Fariz and al-Arian were part of a PIJ enterprise and that “the enterprise members would and did commit acts of violence, intimidation, and threats against Israel, its inhabitants and others, including murders and suicide bombings, and solicit and cause others to do so, with the intent to drive Israel out of the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and to end any influence of the United States in the Middle East.”
ICT is not a home for neighborly kumbaya, and Hatem Fariz is not a friend to the community. In fact, just last month, Fariz traveled to the Middle East and visited the tomb of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam – as mentioned, the inspiration for PIJ – along with the gravesite of one of Fariz’s alleged PIJ co-conspirators, Sameeh Hammoudeh. This is proof positive that Fariz refuses to give up his violent ideology against the Jewish state.
It is a shame and a disgrace for the local news media to be, themselves, duped and to fool their viewership into believing otherwise about Fariz and ICT. Fox, ABC and CBS should, instead, run the real story, which is that a terror-related Islamic center and its director are attempting to whitewash their violent agenda and past by giving out food that amounts to little more than ‘blood money.’
The coronavirus crisis needs to be fought, and those contributing to this ‘war effort’ deserve to be commended. However, no amount of food parcels can cancel out PIJ’s bloody legacy of death and destruction. The news media is supposed to report facts and inform the public. It is time that they stopped portraying ICT and Fariz as benevolent and expose their intent to mislead the public about their evil designs of fanaticism and not altruism.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.