The office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has told FWI it will be removing the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a partner in its Faith and Community Initiative.
In 2019, the governor founded the Governor’s Faith and Community Initiative “to facilitate the efforts of the state’s faith-based entities by improving communication and collaboration among them,” according to Dylan Fisher, the program’s director.
On August 18, a Facebook post by the Florida branch of CAIR claimed to be a leading member of the initiative, declaring, “Governor Ron DeSantis recently presented CAIR-Florida with a Certificate of Recognition for our continued work in service of the vulnerable populations of Floridians.”
Governor DeSantis has, however, previously taken a strong stance against CAIR, noting its identification by the U.S. government in 2007 as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation’s funding of the terror group, Hamas.
CAIR-Florida co-sponsored a pro-Hamas rally in 2014, at which participants yelled “We are Hamas.” In 2017, then-director, Hassan Shibly, endorsed a conference that promoted violent jihad and personally referred to Muslims from the moderate Ahmadiyya as “heretical.”
When FWI asked the governor’s office how CAIR had received recognition, DeSantis’ Press Secretary, Bryan Griffin, explained “The faith office will certainly review this oversight and remove CAIR from our list of partner organizations.”
“It is false for CAIR to claim that they were affirmatively selected to receive any sort of recognition. This was an automatically generated thank you note to any faith-based entity that self-enrolled in our Faith and Community Based Initiative via a website. Every person and entity that signed up received this automatically generated response.”
Critics accuse CAIR-Florida of a history of misrepresentations. In 2020, the Islamist group presented known terror supporters and a convicted murderer as misunderstood “activists” on a webinar to “highlight the government’s use of imprisonment as a fear and intimidation tactic targeting both individuals and communities, and eroding civil liberties.”
The first, Sami Al-Arian, is an advocate of violent jihad, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to supporting the designated terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The second, Moazzam Begg, is a leading British Salafi who, according to the Pentagon, “trained at three terrorist camps.” Begg says he told the CIA under interrogation that he “wanted to live in an Islamic state” and described the Taliban as “better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past 25 years.”
CAIR-Florida also picked a convicted cop-killer as another victimized “activist,” Jamil Al-Amin. Al-Amin shot two sheriff’s deputies, killing one in March 2000. He has made the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list more than once, has been investigated in connection to multiple murders, and views the United States Constitution as “diametrically opposed to what Allah has commanded.” Al-Amin also benefits from CAIR financially, as they seek to get him off the cop-killing charge.
The governor’s office responded to FWI’s inquiry about the “recognition” of CAIR saying, “We welcome the efforts of any legitimate faith-based organization that wants to work to serve the needs of Floridians. However, CAIR does not reflect our shared values, and this will be corrected immediately.”
CAIR-Florida did not respond to FWI’s request for comment.