Muslims quickly change the face of South Florida -spokesman for Islamic Center of Boca Raton arrested for insurance fraud scheme
ICBR Imam fled before arrest of congregant who swore alligience to Al Qaeda -spokesman no longer attends mosque
"McBride, a former Catholic, says he became spokesman after some in the Jewish community repeatedly accused the mosque of being a terrorist front. McBride says he was better able to respond to the attacks than his foreign-born "brothers.The May arrest of member Dr. Rafiq Sabir on terrorism charges further spooked center leaders,he said. Then McBride himself was arrested in July in connection with a wide-ranging insurance fraud scheme..."
MIM: The troubles just keep mounting for the terrorist plagued Islamic Center of Boca Raton to the point where Imam Ibrahim Dremali fled, and even the spokesman, Daniel McBride, no longer attends the mosque he is supposed to be representing. (McBride's predecessor, Hassan Shareef, also a convert fled to Saudi Arabia in 2003).
The convert chiropracter says that he is better suited to respond to the accusations that the mosque is a terrorist front 'then his foreign born brothers' a claim which is indicative of McBride's hubris and mendacity, and may allude to the arrest of another convert doctor and ICBR congregant American born Rafiq Sabir, who was arrested on charges of swearing alligiance to Al Qaeda and planning to set up a Jihad training camp in Long Island.
The present ICBR Imam, Muneer Arafat, has been all but invisible, except for his testimony at the Sami Al Arian trial, where he explained that he was an adherent of a different Jihad group then the defendant. Arafat's former Mosque in Brandenton/ Sarasota raised money for families of suicide bombers and had planned host to Islamic Jihad and Hamas members Marzook and Al Arian.
Imam Ibrahim Dremali fled to Des Moines Iowa shortly before Sabir's arrest, and co founder Mohammed Khalid Hamza aka Kal, has been hunkering down at an obscure college in Texas for the past two years, and has recently resurfaced to shakedown his former employer, Florida Atlantic University, by filing for anti Muslim discrimination for firing him for documented 'improprieties'.
Some sources at FAU have suggested that it was Hamza who was behind anti semitic graffitti and harrassment and threats made to several employees. Hamza posted messages on a Texas A and M board , in support of jailed professor Sami Al Arian, head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in North America. In which he blamed Al Arian's persecution on the Jewish media.
Hamza also wrote a 'novel' called "The Veil" which was made thinly veiled references to 'rich Jews in Boca Raton' and depicted the struggle of a Muslim family to survive despite the infidel wealth and decadence they encountered there. In order to make sure the message of his abysmally written tome clear, he named one of the main male characters 'Jihad'.
It will be perversely amusing to see how Hamza can accuse FAU of discrimination when he and fellow professor Bassem Al Halabi were given close to one million dollars worth of research grants which included travel expenses to conferences Hamza's lawyer will be hard pressed to explain how Hamza can complain of anti Muslim bias when his colleague Bassem Al Halabi, (also co founder and treasurer of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton), was given tenure despite being fined for illegally importing a thermal imaging device into his native country Syria.
Hamza and Al Halabi started a computer business venture called Cadet, which begs the question as to how much resources were used from FAU for their enterprise .
In addition Hamza was head of the Muslim Student Organisation and was given use of the university premises to host Neo Nazi William Baker and Islamo facist Siraj Wahhaj in what was appropriately billed as "Islamic Scholars Night".
One can only hope that instead of seeing the completion of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton which is intended to be ] a copy of the Mosque at Medina - a sign will be affixed to the door with the request "Will the last one who leaves turn out the light?"
The thwarted plans of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton were documented by Dr.Daniel Pipes in his piece:
"Boca Raton's Incredible Shrinking Masjid"
For more see: Boca Raton City of Terror and related articles:
Florida Atlantic Terror University:
MIM: How Sunny South Florida is becoming 'Sunni South Florida'
Muslims quickly change the face of South Florida
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 19, 2005
It's just after midday on a Friday and a normally deserted stretch of Purdy Lane is crammed with cars.
Women in colorful gowns, children in mini-mom and mini-dad finery and men in everything from business suits to T-shirts and jeans leave their cars and hurry across the road in suburban West Palm Beach.
While most county residents are counting down the hours to the weekend, the hundreds who slip off their shoes before quietly filing into a large white building have far loftier thoughts on their minds.
Allah. Mohammed. Mecca.
Mohammed Osman Chowdhury, president of the Muslim Community of Palm Beach County, surveys the scene and smiles.
As a 20-plus-year member, he remembers when the entire congregation could — and regularly did — fit into one of the members' living rooms for the weekly salatul Jumu'ah.
"We have the largest mosque in Palm Beach County," Chowdhury says, a proud smile spreading across his round face.
But in a testament to the explosive growth of the county's Muslim population, it is no longer the only one.
Since that August day in 1996 when a minaret was hoisted to the top of the mosque, marking its completion, other Muslim groups have sprung up around the county.
The Muslim Community of Palm Beach County is now one of seven Muslim centers, including a 3-year-old mosque in Belle Glade built to serve a long-standing group of Palestinians who planted roots in the farming community in the late 1960s.
With 1,000 members, the Purdy Lane mosque is adding about 200 members a year and is planning an expansion on 8 acres it owns across the street.
A far smaller group, the Islamic Foundation of Florida, meets in a triple-wide trailer in a field on U.S. 441 near Boynton Beach Boulevard. In Boca Raton, three groups — the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, the Assalam Center and the Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation — have set up shop within blocks of each other. There are two mosques in Belle Glade.
Because the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't survey people about their religious traditions, there are no official estimates of how many Muslims there are in the country, much less South Florida.
But according to a 2000 study coordinated by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Muslim congregations are the second-fastest growing in the nation, topped only by megachurches.
With an estimated population of 7 million, there are nearly as many Muslims in the country as Jews. And with higher birth and immigration rates, they are expected to be the third-most-dominant religious group in a matter of years.
A survey last year by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found there were 70,000 Muslims in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, up from about 45,000 in 2001, says Altaf Ali, executive director of the Florida chapter.
"This is a big jump," he says, adding that the estimate is low because not all mosques were surveyed and it didn't include hundreds, possibly thousands, of Muslims who don't attend mosque.
The numbers, of course, pale in comparison with the county's other religious groups, who count their members in the hundreds of thousands.
But experts say the balance is about to change.
A 2002 Cornell University study predicted the nation's Muslim population would more than double — to 16 million — in nine years. And, experts say, there is no reason to believe the trend won't be reflected in South Florida.
Cornell researchers pointed out that the Muslim community is about the same size as the nation's Hispanic population was 25 years ago. Latinos, a mere blip on the population ticker a generation ago, are now the nation's largest ethnic minority group. The census recently reported they are on the verge of becoming the county's largest ethnic minority, too.
As with other groups, little is monolithic about the Muslim community.
They hail from countries around the globe: Indonesia to Zimbabwe to Guyana. They speak different languages, prefer different foods, have different histories. Many are American-born blacks.
"We're like the United Nations: Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Singapore, African-American," Chowdhury says of the Muslim Community of Palm Beach County.
Although many say the vast ethnic differences create tensions, the Bangladesh native waves away such claims.
"We're a very harmonious group of different nationalities. Islam brings us together," Chowdhury says.
Left unsaid is that it also sets them apart. Particularly since the 2001 terrorist attacks
Suspicion intrudes on new lives
"You're not from the FBI are you?" Assad Ali asks.
The 30-year-old suburban West Palm Beach resident laughs, more than a little ruefully.
Since suicide bombers struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Ali knows that anyone connected with the Islamic faith is subject to suspicion and scrutiny.
It means a changed world for Muslims, including those who moved to the county years before the attacks.
When the trade center towers crashed to the ground, stunned Americans looked around, saw Muslims everywhere and immediately began questioning where they came from and why they were here.
"It looked like they came out of nowhere," says Christine Gudorf, a religion professor at Florida International University.
Muslims have been immigrating to the country since the late 1800s and continued in waves as the country's immigration laws changed and unrest in their native countries spurred them to seek new lives.
Their reasons for moving to South Florida aren't unique. Like millions of other transplants, they came for an education, a job, their families, the weather or simply a whim.
Abdelhay Ziani left his native Morocco in 1987 to spend a year adding authenticity to the Moroccan exhibit at Disney's Epcot Center.
When the one-year gig was up, he planned to return to his native country.
Then he was offered a job managing the dining room at the former Royce Hotel on Belvedere Road. He moved to a similar position at the Palm Beach Yacht Club on Flagler Drive. He got married. He and his Moroccan bride started having children and, before he knew it, he was entrenched.
"If I didn't have any kids, I'd definitely go back," says the father of three, who now sells real estate and is part-owner of a limousine company. "That's where the family is. But the kids don't know anything except the U.S. It's been 18 years. You never feel it."
He joined others, such as Chowdhury and Mohammed Emran.
"I came here on Aug. 13, 1983," Emran says proudly. "I heard about it from one of my friends."
Initially, Emran and Chowdhury worked in convenience stores.
Emran now owns seven convenience stores and other small businesses around the state. Chowdhury, who came here to get a master's degree in business administration at Florida Atlantic University, owns four stores: two convenience stores, a fried chicken restaurant and a coin laundry.
Emran, who says he has a master's degree in economics, scoffs at the idea that he and Chowdhury are overqualified for their jobs.
"We make more than doctors," he says with a laugh.
Assad Ali, who was born in Kuwait and grew up in Jordan, seems set to follow their path.
He owns Jerusalem Food Market in suburban West Palm Beach, one of several small groceries that recently have sprung up, offering food that is halal — meeting standards set by Islamic law. He wants to open a restaurant next door.
Five years ago, his father left his wife and seven of his children behind in Jordan to help with the grocery. Ali expects the rest of the family will join them soon.
Emran brought his family over once he got settled.
"Fifty of them," he says of the brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews who followed him to Palm Beach County.
But as open as many Muslims are about talking about their lives and their faith, some shun attention.
Leaders at the Assalam Center on Boca Raton refer all questions to Dr. Reda Abdel-Fattah, a dentist in the city. He didn't return phone calls for comment about the group, whose Web site features 5-year-old plans to build a mosque, community center and school on 2 acres it owns just east of FAU.
Likewise, leaders at the Islamic Center of Boca Raton refer inquiries to Daniel McBride, even though the Plantation chiropractor no longer attends the mosque.
McBride, a former Catholic, says he became spokesman after some in the Jewish community repeatedly accused the mosque of being a terrorist front. McBride says he was better able to respond to the attacks than his foreign-born "brothers."
The May arrest of member Dr. Rafiq Sabir on terrorism charges further spooked center leaders, he says. Then McBride himself was arrested in July in connection with a wide-ranging insurance fraud scheme.
Although leaders of those two Boca Raton mosques have clammed up, Sayed Mohammad Jawad Qazwini, imam of the year-old Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation on East Palmetto Park Road, has not shied away from publicity or his critics.
Recently, he had a news conference to decry vandalism at the mosque. He was joined by Bill Gralnick, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, who was one of his harshest critics in April when Qazwini refused to cancel a speech by a man known to deny the Holocaust.
Even in the emotionally charged days immediately following William Baker's appearance, Qazwini insisted there were no hard feelings. He says the Jewish community had over-reacted but he added that he was eager to reach out to Jewish leaders.
Gralnick, likewise, says he was willing to try to work with the 23-year-old Iranian-born imam, who is from a long line of respected clerics. Earlier efforts to forge a relationship with the Islamic Center of Boca Raton failed.
Although impressed with Qazwini's intelligence and demeanor, he voiced concerns about the potential effect of the new mosque. Unlike other mosques in South Florida that are Sunni, the Assadiq Foundation is Shiite.
For years, the two groups have warred, most notably in Iraq, where former dictator Saddam Hussein regularly purged members of the Shiite majority to keep his Sunni followers in power, a bloody struggle that continues today.
Local Muslims insist the differences are political, not religious.
"We all get along," Chowdhury says.
Cultural differences emerge
Still, like other religious groups, there are divisions.
The Islamic Foundation, which worships in trailers off U.S. 441, is strictly Bangladeshi.
"We are different than Arab people or Pakistani people," mosque Treasurer Afm Momen says, pointing to his homeland's 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.
Likewise, some black Americans, who make up a large percentage of the nation's Muslim population, say they aren't at ease in foreign-run mosques.
Lake Worth resident Baha Muhammed, who converted from Christianity to Islam while growing up in New Jersey, says he travels to Miami to attend a mosque that blacks founded in 1968.
"I have to be honest, I'm a little more comfortable with African-American Muslims than immigrant Muslims," he says.
Further, as in many congregations, there are occasional splits.
The Assalam Center and the Islamic Center of Boca Raton started as one group formed by FAU students and professors, says McBride, the Islamic Center spokesman. Now both have plans to build separate mosques just east of the university.
The Islamic Center runs a full-time pre-kindergarten to third-grade school, a key factor for devout Muslims. The Assalam Center plans to open a school, too.
Fund-raising became a problem after the Sept. 11 attacks, McBride says. Would-be contributors — both inside and outside the U.S. — were afraid to give to any Muslim group, fearing they would accused of supporting terrorism.
Because the Quran prohibits interest-bearing loans, Islamic groups must have money in hand before construction can begin.
The groups also have been stymied by often-confusing development regulations.
After spending $400,000 for 9 acres on U.S. 441, the Islamic Foundation discovered the land can't be home to a mosque. They have until Jan. 5 to find a new place.
"We want to have a community center and a mosque," Momen says.
"We want to show to everyone we are the model, that we are open, that we are a place where everyone can come and talk."
Traditions fade amid assimilation
As the years pass, many expect differences that now set Muslims apart will fade away.
Already, some traditions, such as arranged marriages, are disappearing.
Zia Siddiqi says she was heartbroken when her son, now a hospital administrator in Tampa, wanted to marry a Vietnamese doctor.
"It was my culture," says Siddiqi, who met her husband, Sultan, on their wedding night. "But she's a very nice girl. I love her like a daughter."
An arranged marriage brought Assad Ali from Jordan to Tampa when he was 19. It ended in divorce.
"I don't believe in arranged marriages," he says. "I have to love them to marry them."
Never devoutly religious, Ali is shedding many of the trappings of his former life, including his name.
His first name created pronunciation problems. So he has friends call him Steve.
His 13-year-old brother, Mohammad, who doesn't speak English, also has thought about changing his name, possibly to Mike.
Quite by accident, the teen carries virtually the same name as one of America's most famous Muslims.