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Militant Islam Monitor > Weblog > The Taco Bellnality of Evil : Mohammed Javed Qureshi and local Muslims, lie about their roles in Padilla's path to Islam

The Taco Bellnality of Evil : Mohammed Javed Qureshi and local Muslims, lie about their roles in Padilla's path to Islam

June 1, 2004,1413,137%25257E10047%25257E2122479,00.html+jose+padilla++mohammed+javed&hl=en

Islam: On his release, Padilla applied for a job at the Taco Bell in Davie where Stultz worked. Muhammed Javed, a Pakistani-American and co-founder of the Broward School of Islamic Studies, was the manager. He hired Padilla on his girlfriend's recommendation, and said he never regretted it. Both were excellent employees, he said.

Stultz expressed an interest in Islam, Javed said. Javed invited her to his home, where his wife gave classes in the scriptures to women. Occasionally Padilla accompanied her, until Javed's wife suggested he go to mosque with the men.

June 12, 2002

Qureshi said he remembered al Muhajir asking him about converting to Islam but said he avoided discussing religion with him because of workplace ethics and Taco Bell policies.


June 16,2002

The fast food restaurant's owner, Mohammed Javed Qureshi, told the Times that Padilla approached him for advice on converting to Islam. Padilla did so on his own, Quershi claimed, without any help from him.


Javed, a Muslim who now runs an Islamic elementary school in Broward County, insists he did not proselytize to his young employees. When Padilla, who had undoubtedly heard about Islam in prison, began asking him how to convert, Javed says he told Padilla to find a mosque on his own.



Padilla's boss, a Muslim, told reporters that young Jose asked him about where he could study Islam. Citing a workplace policy against discussing religion, the supervisor says he told Padilla to find a mosque through the yellow pages


see below for list of Mohammed Javed Qureshi quotes.


Shah and co. at the ICNA and SISB

Warm send off for Imam Ka'aba

( aka Al Sudais )


Tasneem Khan

The visiting Imam Ka'aba, Sheikh Abdur Rehman As-Sudais was accorded a warm send off at the Miami International Airport by a group of local Muslim leaders at the conclusion of his five day visit to South Florida.

Among those present at the MIA to see off the honorable guest, included ICNA Amir Dr Zulfiqar Shah, Engineer Tasnimuddin of Islamic School of Miami, Dr Zahid Qureshi of School of Islamic Studies at Broward and Engineer Mohammad Irshad.

The Imam, accompanied by an official of the Royal Saudi Embassy in Washignton DC, had come to Miami last Sunday at the invitation of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) after attending its annual Convention in Ohio, besides leading Isha'a prayers at the Masjid Miami Gardens Drive and at the Broward Islamic School in Fort Lauderdale, had also addressed a large gathering of Muslims at the Hotel Inter Continental in Miami.

During his speech, the Imam called upon the Muslims to learn Arabic since it was the language of The Holy Quran and elaborated that one could only fully understand and act accordingly if aware of the language.

Before the two thousand plus Muslim gathering of its kind in South Florida, Sheikh Abdur Rehman As-Sudais, who also had led the Maghrib and Isha'a prayers at the Grand Ball Room of the down town hotel, called upon the Muslims to get united and keep their Islamic identity above everything. He said we should be proud of being a Muslim and such let the world know that we were the followers of the greatest religion. He said its about time we leave

our pity differences behind and work collectively for the greater cause of one Muslim Ummah.

Imam Ka'aba said he was very much impressed to learn the great work various organizations and individuals were doing in propagation of Islam in this part of the world and called upon the Muslims to lend their fullest support in this noble cause.

He said the Muslims today had lost their pride due to the fact that they were not following the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and were more involved in the wordly affairs and selfishness. He said the Ummah had plenty of resources but could not avail them due to various divisions within their ranks and files. Imam Ka'aba was of the view that if we practiced Islam as per teachings of the Prophet Mohammad, we would once again become world leaders. He said he had brought the message of love, happiness and brotherhood from the people of Mecca. Sheikh Sudais speech in Arabic was translated by Dr Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Amir of ICNA , who also gave a brief introduction of his organization.


Islam: On his release, Padilla applied for a job at the Taco Bell in Davie where Stultz worked. Muhammed Javed, a Pakistani-American and co-founder of the Broward School of Islamic Studies, was the manager. He hired Padilla on his girlfriend's recommendation, and said he never regretted it. Both were excellent employees, he said.

Stultz expressed an interest in Islam, Javed said. Javed invited her to his home, where his wife gave classes in the scriptures to women. Occasionally Padilla accompanied her, until Javed's wife suggested he go to mosque with the men.

He became a quiet, studious regular at Arabic and scripture classes at the Darul Uloom mosque in Pembroke Pines and then at Masjid Al-Iman in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Maulana Shafayat Mohammed, an imam at known for preaching against the misuse of Islamic teachings to justify violence, described Padilla as a student hungry for knowledge. Another imam, Raed Awad, said Padilla seemed to have taken religion to heart, perhaps because in his criminal years he had "tried the other side of society."

In 1994, Padilla formally changed his name to Ibrahim. His family was not thrilled with his religious conversion. Although they first took out a marriage license in 1991, Stultz and Padilla waited until January 1996 to marry in a quiet ceremony at the Broward County courthouse.

To Egypt: In 1998, Padilla decided he wanted to immerse himself more fully in the Arabic language and Islam. His family thought he had taken leave of his senses.

"I said, 'Why are you going to go to the Middle East when you have nobody there?'" his mother said. Stultz was upset. She told him she would not accompany him. The idea was "too strange" and scary, she said.

Once in Egypt, Padilla called his wife once a month for the first six months, but he eventually met and married an Egyptian woman, Shamia'a, who was then 19.

In Florida, Stultz learned of her husband's betrothal from an Egyptian-American friend. Horrified, she called and pleaded with Padilla not to proceed with another marriage. "He said I should go ahead with my life," she said. "I was sad. I wasn't going to get married again. There was a bond between us." Stultz filed for divorce.




Sontag repeats Shami'a's protestations that her husband could not have misled her about what he was doing in Yemen. Then Sontag lists information that completely undercuts the protestations. For example, Padilla must have been paid very well for an English teacher to have traveled as extensively as he did. Yet Muhammed Javed, the Florida man who helped convert Padilla to Islam, told the New York Times that when Padilla told him he was going to Egypt to teach English, he said, "I was baffled, thinking, 'You yourself don't speak proper English.' "

While the story suggests that Padilla's mother, Estela Ortega Lebron, doesn't believe her son could have been involved in the alleged dirty-bomb plot, Mom's reported complaints focus on how the FBI treated her and the fact that her son has yet to be tried.


Quiero plutonio?

Back in the good old – pre domestic terror - days your biggest concern about the guy behind the counter at a Taco Bell restaurant was that he might spit in your burrito. But this is the 21st century and now you have to worry if he's working for Osama bin Laden and trying to build a radiological weapon on nights and weekends.

Mohammed Javed Qureshi, the owner of a South Florida Taco Bell, employed Jose Padilla and his wife Cherie Stultz.

It was Padilla's association with the Pakistani born Qureshi that sparked his interest in Islam. It directly led to he and his wife's conversion. After their conversion to Islam, Padilla and his wife - now known as Al Muhajair and Marwa - continued working at the Taco Bell until leaving in 1994.

"If you had known him, you would have never thought of him as a violent person," said Raed Mousa Awad of the Al-Imam Mosque that Padilla attended in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "He was a polite, shy, serious gentleman, according to my observations." ABC News - June 17, 2002

Unfortunately, the pattern linking obfuscation, disinformation and sketchy characters continues, as Raed Awad was also under observation by law enforcement for his involvement in terrorist fundraising. He left South Florida around the time Padilla did and "moved to Alabama". His children claim they do not have his address.

Awad claimed he did not know when Padilla converted to Islam or who converted him. He says that he met Padilla in 1995 and that he attended services daily - sometimes once or twice a day.

"He [Padilla] was very active in the social activities of the Mosque and well known in the Muslim community." – ABC News

Yet Awad claimed not to remember him.

A leader at Awad's Mosque, Yusef Shakoor, remembers Padilla as shy and helpful, but went on to say that he had no standout qualities or personality.

In addition to attending prayers at the Mosque, Padilla studied the Koran on Saturday at the Dar Ul Uloom Institute in Pembroke Pines.

Maulana Shafayat Mohammed, the prayer leader at the Institute, described Padilla as an oddity who definitely stood out - "...he was a Hispanic who converted to Islam and always wore a red scarf over his head."

From no "standout qualities" to an "oddity," everyone in the Muslim community appears to have a different and conflicting story about Jose Padilla. There is an obvious reason for this subterfuge - to confuse the media, investigators, researchers and above all, the public. It is not an accident that Qureshi, Rafiq Mahdi and others have given varying accounts to the regarding South Florida events involving Muslim extremists.

It is now common practice for these people to go by two, three or more differing names; arranged in varrying order - depending upon the demands of the occasion. For example - Mohammed Qureshi, Mohammed Javed and Mohammed Javed Qureshi - all the same individual.

In like manner, Qureshi never refers to himself as the owner of the Taco Bell that employed Padilla, he usually says that he was Padilla's supervisor, which is technically correct but seemingly calculated to avoid disclosure of the fact that he was not only his ultimate supervisor but his employer as well.


June 12, 2002 ABC News


His Taco Bell supervisor, Mohammed Javed Qureshi, told the Sun-Sentinel that he was a good employee who seemed interested in making a better life for himself and his new family after jail.

"He did everything that I asked him to do, maybe more," Qureshi told the newspaper.

Qureshi said he remembered al Muhajir asking him about converting to Islam but said he avoided discussing religion with him because of workplace ethics and Taco Bell policies.

June 16. 2002

The fast food restaurant's owner, Mohammed Javed Qureshi, told the Times that Padilla approached him for advice on converting to Islam. Padilla did so on his own, Quershi claimed, without any help from him.

The al-Qaeda suspect reportedly left the Taco Bell in mid-1993, when he went to work for the Coral Ridge Golf Course, also in Fort Lauderdale.

Sometime in 1994, Padilla legally changed his name to Ibrahim. During the mid-1990s he reportedly attended the Masjid Al Iman mosque in Sunrise, Fla.

He stayed in Fort Lauderdale from mid-1993



There are conflicting reports about when Padilla found Islam. Several anonymous government sources have told news organizations that he converted while in that South Florida prison. But several news stories indicate that he first started seeking out information about Islam during his stint at Taco Bell.

Padilla's boss, a Muslim, told reporters that young Jose asked him about where he could study Islam. Citing a workplace policy against discussing religion, the supervisor says he told Padilla to find a mosque through the yellow pages.

South Florida, and the Fort Lauderdale area in particular, has long been considered a center for radical and extremist Islam in the U.S., and several mosques and organizations in the area have been tied to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

One of the first people Jose Padilla met was Adham Hassoun, an outspoken Palestinian activist living in the area. Hassoun had recently quit his job as a computer programmer to oversee the opening of a Muslim charity in Plantation, Fla., five minutes from Padilla's Taco Bell.

The Benevolence International Foundation was new to the area and had only recently incorporated in the U.S. But the purported charity had existed for a couple of years in previous incarnations — with offices in Pakistan, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.

The organization can be traced back to the wealthy Saudis who founded its predecessor groups, two sheikhs with strong ties to Osama bin Laden. The federal government charges that Benevolence is a front organization for al Qaeda, and that it diverted funds and other resources from charitable causes to terrorist activities.

Benevolence was hardly the only major connection to terrorism in South Florida, although it is a significant one for Padilla. The federal government charges that Hassoun (who is currently fighting deportation) recruited Padilla into Islam and possibly into al Qaeda. But there were plenty of opportunities. Other figures in Padilla's new social circle have been connected to charities under investigation, and to terrorist groups Hizbollah and Hamas.

Padilla began studying Islam at the nearby Darul Uloom Islamic Institute and the al-Iman mosque, both of which were reputed to have connections to extremism. In 1994, Padilla formally converted to Islam and changed his name to "Ibrahim."

A calm seemed to settle over Padilla after he came out of jail in late 1992. Maybe he had aged out of petty crime, or maybe his girlfriend, Cherie Maria Stultz, had helped him control his temper. At a Taco Bell in Davie, Fla., Padilla and Stultz found jobs with and a mentor in the restaurant's manager, Mohammad Javed, a Pakistani immigrant. "They were poor but trying to make something of their lives—buy a car, establish a good credit rating, things like that," Javed says. Javed, a Muslim who now runs an Islamic elementary school in Broward County, insists he did not proselytize to his young employees. When Padilla, who had undoubtedly heard about Islam in prison, began asking him how to convert, Javed says he told Padilla to find a mosque on his own.



Time Magazine June 16, 2002

Maulana Shafayat Mohammed: Comments

And so Padilla began a 10-year odyssey, moving ever closer to radical elements within Islam. In South Florida, as many as 60,000 Muslims attend two dozen mosques and religious sites, spanning the spectrum of ideology. A subculture of extremism has taken hold in certain pockets. "Hamas and Hizballah have a wide network here," says a prominent Islamic community leader. "We have been taking a nap on this issue for far too long. These are people who are convinced that the West is evil and America is 'Darul Harb,'" the Place of War. The community leader, who requested anonymity, describes a growing radicalized cadre of mostly Middle Eastern men who aggressively recruit young Muslims. These men often drive BMWs and Mercedes and lure followers with money, he says.

Padilla attended at least two mosques in the Broward County area that have since been linked to extremist activity. One is the Darul Uloom Islamic Institute in Pembroke Pines. Last month two men in their 20s who had frequented the Darul Uloom mosque were arrested on federal charges of plotting to blow up electrical power stations in South Florida as part of a "holy war" against the U.S. Maulana Shafayat, imam of the Darul Uloom mosque, says he condemns extremist ideology. But, he concedes, "a certain percentage [of converts] do get radical. They are mostly less educated, and they are the ones who feel they are oppressed."

In 1994 Padilla converted formally to Islam at al-Iman mosque in Sunrise. The imam at the mosque at that time, who would have overseen Padilla's conversion, was Raed Awad—the former Florida fund raiser for the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim charity that the Bush Administration has linked to Hamas. In December the Texas-based offices of the foundation were raided and shuttered by the Treasury Department. Attempts to reach Awad, who has since left the mosque, were unsuccessful. Awad has denied any link between the charity and Hamas. Law-enforcement sources say the FBI is interested in learning more about the role he played in Padilla's conversion.

Around the time of his conversion, Padilla legally changed his name to Ibrahim. (No surname is listed on court documents, so Time is using his birth name.) In 1996 he married Stultz, who had also converted. He started wearing a red-and-white kaffiyeh, or headdress, and expensive watches and clothes, although he was unemployed for much of the time. In 1998 Padilla suddenly left his wife and moved to Egypt, telling acquaintances at al-Iman mosque that he was going to learn Arabic. Padilla has since told investigators that his travels were sponsored by "friends" interested in his education. Using the name Abdullah al-Muhajir, he moved to a suburb of Cairo. But he was frustrated, officials say, by the secular, state-controlled brand of Islam taught in mainstream schools. He plunged into the extremist underground, where he was advised to study in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He moved to Pakistan, where, like many militants, he married the widow of a jihadist. Last year Padilla met with Abu Zubaydah for the first time, U.S. officials say. In spring of this year, he met with Abu Zubaydah again—and allegedly made his nuclear-bomb pitch.

In March Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan. A month later, he hinted to his FBI and CIA interrogators that he had talked to people who wanted to put together a dirty bomb, says a U.S. official. He provided no details, but agents started comparing intelligence as well as material from safe houses they had raided. Out popped Padilla's name, the official says. They then matched the name to a passport photo of Padilla and checked the identification with Abu Zubaydah, who confirmed it. The chase was on.



June 12, 02 Miami Herald Maulana Shafayat Mohammed's comments:

From 1995 to 1996, Padilla occasionally attended Saturday morning Koran studies run by the Darul Uloom Islamic Institute in Pembroke Pines. Maulana Shafayat Mohamed, head of the Institute, said he always wore a kaffiyeh scarf over his head -- the multicolored headscarf typically worn by devout Muslim men in the Middle East.

"Nobody wears that [in the United States]. He even wore that with his regular clothes," Mohamed said.


His wife, who identified herself as Marwah, sought marital counseling after her divorce last year, Mohamed said.

"I don't know why she called me. Maybe because I'm a religious leader. She told me Ibrahim had divorced her and had moved to Egypt," he said.

Two other Broward County men, Imran Mandhai, 19, and Shueyb Mossa Jokhan, 24, accused of plotting a "holy war" bombing campaign in South Florida, attended prayer services at Darul Uloom. Mandhai was arrested in February; Jokhan was arrested last month.

Mohamed said the center is open to everyone -- which has advantages and disadvantages.

"All kind of people will pass through here," he said.



He has been out of the United States, primarily in the Middle East, since 1998. A family friend said Padilla's conversion to Islam came after he married a Muslim woman and moved to the Middle East.

According to court records in Florida, he was divorced from his wife of five years, Cherie Maria Stultz, in March 2001.

The pair married January 2, 1996. She filed for divorce, describing the marriage as "irrevocably broken," and placed an ad in a local business newspaper in January 2001 serving notice she was seeking divorce.

But Broward County court records also show that on July 1, 1994, Padilla changed his name to one word: "Ibrahim." He was married under that name, and divorce papers identify him as Jose Ibrahim Padilla.

Court papers listed several places of employment for Padilla, including a Hilton hotel, a local golf course and a Taco Bell.


According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, al Muhajir told a former supervisor at a Davie, Fla., Taco Bell that he converted to Islam at a mosque — after he got out of jail in 1992.

Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne said Tuesday there was no record of al Muhajir, or Padilla, as he was known when he was in jail, attending any Muslim services while he served his sentence.

"He fell into the wrong hands," said Mohammad Javed Qureshi, a fellow Muslim who was once Padilla's boss at a Davie Taco Bell.

Mohammad Javed Qureshi hired Padilla in late 1992 to assemble tacos for $5.50 an hour at a Davie Taco Bell. He proved a hard worker. Qureshi hired Padilla's new girlfriend, Cherie Stultz, a few months later.


The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has issued an alert for the holder of a Guyanese passport, who is suspected of making threats against America and of having ties to the al Qaeda terrorist network.

Law enforcement agencies and personnel have been urged to notify the FBI immediately if they locate Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, who is being sought by the FBI for questioning and for whom they have issued a "Be on the Lookout" (BOLO) alert.

El Shukrijumah, also known as Abu Arif, Ja'far Al-Tayar, Jaffar Al-Tayyar, Jafar Tayar and Jaafar Al-Tayyar, is said to be possibly involved with al-Qaeda terrorist networks and thus may pose a serious threat to American citizens and interests worldwide.

The 27-year-old man is approximately 5ft 3" to 5ft 5" in height, weighs 132 pounds, (though he may be heavier today), has a Mediterranean complexion, black hair, black eyes and is said to wear a beard occasionally.

Additionally, the FBI said that El Shukrijumah carries a Guyanese passport and also that he may attempt to enter the United States with a Saudi, Canadian or Trinidad passport as well.

Anyone having information concerning is urged to contact the American Embassy. A South Florida Sun-Sentinel report said that authorities had partnered El Shukrijumah with alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla, who converted to Islam in South Florida, moved to Egypt, then was arrested in Chicago last year.

"The exact connection between the two was not clear late Thursday, but three officials with knowledge of the case all described El Shukrijumah as Padilla's partner in the alleged dirty bomb plot.

"Padilla, who previously lived in Broward County and worked at a Taco Bell in Davie, was arrested last May as a material witness at O'Hare International Airport after he stepped off a flight from Pakistan. He has never been charged with a crime, but was designated in June by President Bush as "an enemy combatant" because of his alleged role in the dirty bomb plot.

The information about El Shukrijumah was acquired from recently arrested al-Qaida operatives, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who allegedly planned the Sept. 11 hijackings. El Shukrijumah is thought to be "an integral part" of a new plot against the United States, according to federal officials, who could not release details.

"But his father, Gulshair El-Shukri, adamantly denies any terrorist connection even though federal officials have inquired about his son six or seven times. He says his son made pilgrimages to Mecca and imported goods to the United States. Last El-Shukri heard, his son was living in Morocco.

"‘It is not correct because my son could not drive a plane,' El-Shukri, 73, said Thursday night. ‘My son has no connection to Mohamed Atta or anyone they've accused of terrorist acts. My son has no connection with al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden.' "Still, on Thursday afternoon about 40 federal, state and local agents descended on a Miramar home on the 6100 block of Southwest 27th St. and the Al Hijrah mosque next door. Parked in the front of the house was a car with an American flag sticker that read ‘Patriot Day September.'

"Agents combed the neighborhood talking to residents, one of whom said he had seen the suspect three days ago. El Shukrijumah was in the United States since well before the terrorist attacks, the FBI said. "The one-story home belongs to the suspect's father, a respected local religious leader who served as spiritual head for the Al Hijrah mosque.

"El-Shukri, who was born in Guyana, is also involved with a Web site called ‘Master Arabic' which encourages customers to order tapes to learn the language. He said he brought his children to the United States in 1995 to learn English. "‘He believes that everyone should look up to the youth for they were and will be the pillars of this creed Islam,' the site reads.

"El Shukrijumah's last known address was at his father's house in Miramar, records show. "Friends and members of the neighbouring mosque, owned by the Caribbean-American Islamic Association, expressed disbelief that any of the family members could be involved with al-Qaida. El-Shukri taught at all the South Florida mosques, often accompanied by his children, including El Shukrijumah, said Altaf Ali, Florida director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations."Wazim Mohammed, chairman of the Caribbean- American Islamic Association, said he hadn't seen El Shukrijumah in a few years.

‘I have never known [El Shukrijumah] to be involved in any subversive activities,' Mohammed said. ‘He was a very respectful, kind and kind-hearted young man — always helping the community, teaching children and helping around the mosque.'

"Unknown to his friends, however, El Shukrijumah also had a record.

"In 1997, under the name Jumah Adnan El Shukri, he was arrested in Miramar on charges of domestic battery and child abuse. He also had a number of traffic violations in Broward, Hamilton and Osceola counties. State records showed he received a traffic ticket as recently as May 4, 1999 in St. Cloud."|lang_en

Muslim girl complains of hate attack at Boynton Beach middle school



By Scott Travis, Education Writer

South Florida, Sun Sentinel:

A 12-year-old Muslim girl says four boys assaulted her last week in the hallways of Congress Middle School in Boynton Beach and referred to her as "Osama," an activist group is reporting.

The American-Islamic Relations Council says the Palm Beach County School District has been slow to respond to the complaint and wants law-enforcement officials to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

A district spokesman said school administrators and police are investigating but are lacking crucial details about what happened after school on April 5.

The council learned of the incident Monday morning when it received a call from the girl's uncle, said Altaf Ali, executive director of its Florida chapter. He declined to name the girl or her family members.

Ali said the girl, who wears a headscarf because of her faith, told council officials she was hit in the face with a leather belt, injuring her lip.

The boys allegedly called the girl "Osama," referring to terrorist Osama bin Laden, and used derogatory remarks about her headscarf and her ethnic background. The girl is from Pakistan and moved to Florida a few months ago, Ali said. The boys also threatened to attack her again if she complained to school authorities, Ali said.

The student said similar incidents have happened in the past, when students teased her and tried to remove her headscarf, Ali said, adding that school officials have failed to investigate properly.

Congress Principal Kathy Harris could not be reached for comment Monday despite attempts by phone. School district spokesman Nat Harrington said school police were unaware of the complaint until the council notified media on Monday.

Harrington said the girl did not report the incident to school officials. But Ali said the girl told a teacher, who dismissed the complaint.

"The teacher's response to the complaint was `all kids are like that,'" Ali said. He did not know the teacher's name.

Harrington said Congress officials became aware of the girl's concerns when Assistant Principal George Lyles received a call from her parents last week. They made an appointment to speak with him and gave some details of the incident, Harrington said. But there was no mention in the meeting of the girl being called Osama or of any anti-Muslim remarks.

The girl was unable to provide a description of the boys involved, Harrington said.

"There's so much discrepancy. Things are not lining up," Harrington said. "We're aware of a complaint, and we're continuing to look at who's responsible."

School police do not designate offenses as hate crimes, he said. However, the State Attorney's Office could still prosecute it as a hate crime, which could bring a steeper penalty if there's a conviction, said Mike Edmonson, a spokesman for the State Attorney's Office.

Unhappy with the school district's response, Ali said, the council plans to ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

Congress Middle School has struggled with racial tensions in recent years. Two years ago, there were complaints that teachers and administrators treated black students unfairly, prompting the district's Safe Schools program to provide more training for teachers. Last year, a feud between some black and white teachers prompted the school district to fire two teachers, reassign the principal and force all teachers to reapply for their jobs. About half the teachers this year are new.

Ali said he has contacted school district officials in the past about offering diversity awareness training for students but received no response.

Reports of anti-Muslim incidents were common after Sept. 11, 2001, but there haven't been recent problems, said Daniel McBride, a spokesman for the Islamic Community of Boca Raton. Two years ago, a high school student in Boca Raton reported that several boys tried to pull off her headscarf. But the school took immediate disciplinary action, and outside authorities were not contacted, McBride said.

Another Islamic leader said his community continues to suffer prejudice because the media, and therefore the public, tends to stereotype Muslims as extremists.

"The climate for Muslims in general is kind of tough here because people are so ignorant," said Murtaza Kakli, president of the Muslim community of Palm Beach County. "I consider myself very moderate, and I condemn any kind of violence, like suicide bombing, or taking of any innocent lives, and I plead to everybody that we should be tolerant to all different faiths."

At the School of Islamic Studies of Broward, co-founder Mohammad Javed Qureshi has initiated a program in which students invite their friends from public school to attend classes with them at the after-school religious academy in Sunrise.

"People will begin to see they're not a bunch of terrorists running around," Qureshi said.

Staff Writer Tanya Weinberg contributed to this report.


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