Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Palm Beach School Board Members Accept Awards from Islamist Group

NewsPalm Beach School Board Members Accept Awards from Islamist Group

Muslim leaders in South Florida have been lobbying for local county school boards to implement a day off for public school students during Ramadan. On June 1st, the Palm Beach County School Board announced that, beginning in 2024, all students will have a day off from school in recognition of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.

The South Florida Muslim Federation (SFMF), an umbrella group of radical Muslim outfits linked to bigotry and violence, held an award ceremony to thank the school board members. Given the extremist nature of the presenter, each recipient of SFMF’s award should immediately hand it back.

Founded in April 2017, SFMF seeks to bring South Florida’s Muslim extremist entities together. Members of SFMF include such terror-linked groups as: the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA); and Islamic Relief (IR).

One member, Masjid Jamaat Al-Mumineen (MJAM), promotes texts: sanctioning domestic violence against women, glorifying female genital mutilation, mandating death for gays, libeling Hindus, and calling Jews and Christians “enemies.” Another, Darul Uloom, has an imam, Shafayat Mohamed, who has been thrown off several Broward County boards for his fiery rhetoric against gays.

The Muslim Federation award ceremony (“appreciation lunch”) for the school board members took place at what appears to be a storefront gym with roll-up mats, wooden yoga wall bars, exercise balls, and an exposed ceiling. Attendees sat at tables covered in cheap blue plastic tablecloth.

The school board members and Federation leaders sat at tables in front, surrounded by large SFMF signs. Behind them, hung an unsightly black drape to hide the rest of the facility. It was a peculiar look for such an event but appropriate granted that the recipients had sacrificed their integrity for such an extreme organization.

The school board members honored at the lunch were:  Vice Chair Karen Brill, whose campaign literature was placed along all the tables, Alexandria Ayala, and Erica Whitfield. The Muslim Federation leaders at the event included: SFMF President Samir Kakli, SFMF Vice President Muhammad Irshad, SFMF Marketing and Public Relations Director Junaid Akhter, SFMF Broward County Representative Yunus Ismail, and SFMF Advisor Afifa Khaliq.

According to the Muslim Federation, “The school board members were extremely supportive of the Muslim community and expressed their wish to continue to do more.” Indeed, the three proudly lifted and showcased their awards for the camera. At least a half dozen event photos on the SFMF website depict school board member Erica Whitfield either sitting or standing next to Samir Kakli.

Kakli is upset that the modern-day definition of anti-Semitism includes vilification of Israel, a nation with which he is obsessed. This past May, Kakli posted on social media that the Jewish state is the “world’s leading terrorist organization.” Also in May, Kakli participated in an anti-Israel rally, where he and others called for Israel’s destruction.

In June 2020, he promoted the Palestinian “Day of Rage,” large-scale protests that resulted in violence against Jews. Kakli has used Facebook to repost material from Hamas-affiliated media, and in October 2020, he called for the release of leaders of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), who were convicted of raising millions of dollars for Hamas.

Performing the prayer for the SFMF lunch was Meer Hossain, the founder and CEO of Basmah, an SFMF member/charity that professes to support refugees in Bangladesh. This past February, Hossain and Basmah organized an event honoring Siraj Wahhaj, a Brooklyn, New York imam who was named by the U.S. government as a possible unindicted co-conspirator to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and who has been linked to the bomb-maker involved in the attack, Clement Rodney Hampton-El. Numerous Basmah events have featured as a speaker Monzer Taleb, a self-professed member of Hamas, who, in June 2019, posted on Facebook that Jews in Israel “should be relocated to Germany.”

Another SFMF member involved with the lunch was the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR), a radical mosque whose founders include Hamas website designer Syed Khawer Ahmad and Bassem Alhabi, current ICBR Secretary and ex-assistant to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Sami al-Arian. ICBR’s President, ICNA COO, and SFMF Palm Beach Rep Abdulrauf Khan has used Facebook to target Jews and gays.

Seed money for the mosque came from the now-defunct al-Qaeda charity, the Global Relief Foundation (GRF). ICBR has published violently antisemitic essays on its website, describing Jews as “people of treachery” and discussing murdering Jews.

This award ceremony emphasizes the need for proper vetting when it comes to accepting prizes from ideologically-driven parties. A basic Google search would have revealed the extremist reality of the South Florida Muslim Federation, and that its push for recognition of Ramadan or Eid represented an attempt to gain the submission of those who hold power within the community. Indeed, this entire show – the Islamist audience, the school board members, the SFMF leadership, and the awards – effectively undermines the Palm Beach educational system.

Karen Brill, Alexandria Ayala, and Erica Whitfield all accepted their SFMF awards as members of the Palm Beach County School Board. As such, they were not only representing themselves; they were representing all of their constituents, all of the residents of Palm Beach County, and especially all of the children who live there. Taking into consideration the above information – the terrorist connections and bigotry aimed at Jews, Christians, Hindus, gays and women – there can be no choice but for these school board members to immediately hand back these awards.

No one, including public officials, should ever accept an award from a group and its leadership that endorses violence and spreads hatred and bigotry. Instead, these school board members should repudiate SFMF. By taking the awards, the school board has legitimized bigoted fanatics and cemented SFMF as the local liaison representing the Palm Beach Muslim community.

Joe Kaufman is a writer for the Counter-Islamist Grid, a project of the Middle East Forum. He is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Chairman of the Joe Kaufman Security Initiative.

Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.

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