Mosque in Florida got taxpayer funded equipment and personnel to help with Ramadan whistle blowers vilified as press plays into CAIR's hands
November 7, 2006
"I believe we must speak out – and for very immediate reasons. Silence on the problems of Islam elevates Islam. It affords it a unique place in our culture that it does not deserve and should not have. You do not have to be believers in a thing to propagate it. We do so by our silence. Our fear and self-censorship are complicity: they act as a votary..."
Douglas Murray author of "Neo conservatism: Why we need it" at a recent UK event on Islamist intimidation and censorship.
Republican leaders Tom and Mary Hogan are being vilified and both Muslims and non Muslims are calling for Tom Hogan to be removed from as County Commissioner because of his wife letter to a local paper protesting the use of taxpayer funding and county personeel to help the local Barclay Avenue mosque celebrate the month long holiday of Ramadan.
In a letter to a local paper Mary Ann Hogan wrote that she was "appalled" that the county"rented out" personnel to the Muslim community, adding "don't the administrators know that in honor of Ramadan the Muslims in Iraq have killed an even greater number of our soldiers and marines then in the preceding months?"
She told the paper that "My intent was not political" "What is important to me that they (the county) were "promoting a religion that I still find hateful and frightening".
He husband Tom Hogan, who is a Hernando County Commissioner and Republican party leader said he supported his wife's comments and stated: "As a citizen I have done nothing wrong and I don't know where this is coming from".
MIM: Note the key words I and to me -last time MIM looked the First Amendment was still active in Hernando County and free speech was guaranteed ,despite ongoing Islamist efforts lead by CAIR. As for where 'this' is coming from The answer is the Council on American Islamic Relations and their Saudi and Gulf state handlers. The group recently received $50 million dollars 'to improve the imagine of Islam in America, which is a euphemism for silencing any voices criticial of Islam ). http://www.canadiancoalition.com/forum/messages/17249.shtml
What is also significant is that not one of the journalists who reported on the story noted these salient facts.The free speech issue is exemplified by the quotes by the head of CAIR and Mary Ann Hogan:
"We're deeply concerned about the hateful and racist nature of these comments," said Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, promising to call on Gov. Jeb Bush to remove Hogan from office.
"They can call it whatever they want to," Mary Ann Hogan responded Tuesday. "I'm calling them barbarians. "
The real story is the Mary Ann and Tom Hogan's right to express their opinion of Islam, and the efforts of Ahmed Bedier and CAIR to silence them by calling for Commissioner's Hogan's resignation and whipping up a media frenzy branding them as Islamophobes (A term used to smear anyone who criticises Islam which is semantically wrong since one cannot be phobic towards a religion).
Bedier and CAIR have a long history of attempting to censor anyone who dares to criticise Islam. Recently, Bedier resorted to name calling and attempting to alter comments pertaining to a CAIR video on You Tube. The exchange , which included calling one poster "Mr.Pimp" was preserved for postererity by Joe Kaufman of Americans Against Hate.http://americansagainsthate.blogspot.com/2006/10/is-cairs-ahmed-bedier-censoring.html
1) The group leading the censorship attacks on the Hogans is The Council on American Arab Relations a Saudi funded front group for Hamas, who are a defendent is a 9/11 terror death lawsuit and have several of their employees jailed on terrorism related charges.See CAR : "Moderate Friends of Terror". http://www.danielpipes.org/article/394
2) The mosque which received the county assistance is owned by NAIT, The North American Islamist Trust, a Wahhabist entity which promotes the spread of fundamentalist Islam with am aim to implementing shari'a law worldwide. and attempting to replace the Constitution with the Koran in North America.
3) In 2004 the head of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Sayyid Sayeed visited the mosque which received taxpayer and county assistancef . Sayeed thanked the mosque members for their financial assistance in bring Islamic educators to the area. Islamic educators means Muslims trained to proselytise and recruit converts and is referred to as 'Jihad of the tongue'.
MIM: Sayeed's statements to the Muslims at the mosque was a case study in Islamist brazenness and arrogance. On one hand he and his fellow Islamists at ISNA despise America for being a superpower, and want to change this country into a United States of Allah, while insisting that infidel Americans show due deference to Islam 'because it is their special duty tomake sure they thrive particularly in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks (implying that if they didnt learn their lesson then worse will befall them).
MIM:Sayeed's words echo those of former ISNA president Muzzamil Siddiqui, who declared a month after 9/11 that :America has to learn, if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please, all Americans. Do you remember that? If you continue doing injustice, and tolerate injustice, the wrath of God will come."
Sayeed told Hernando mosque goers who had funded the ISNA conference that 9/11 had been a good thing for Muslims because it' 'provided them with an opportunity to tell their story".
Sayyid Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, also said America's standing as the world's lone superpower gives it a special duty to ensure its Muslim community continues to thrive, particularly in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks..."Syeed said the questions about Islam prompted by the "dastardly acts" of Sept. 11 have provided Muslims with an opportunity to tell their story..." http://www.persianblog.com/posts/?weblog=yad121121.persianblog.com&postid=5301420
MIM:ISNA is one of the largest Saudi funded umbrella groups in North America aimed at propagating Islam through da'wa ( proseltylising.). http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=24670ISNA's
ISNA's aim is to have the United States become the Islamic Society of North America by waging '.Jihad through daw'a'. The group's mission statement explains that :
" In keeping with its charter, ISNA works for the pleasure of Allah (Subhanahu wa Taala) to advance the cause of Islam and Muslims in North America. http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/254
The group is funded by the Wahhabists and is affiliated with the NAIT which owns the mosque in Hernando.
MIM:According to the wife of Dr.Mohammed Adel Eldin, the 65 physicians in and around Hernando County "haven't killed anyone" but they have aided and abetted those that did.
Dr. Ghada Eldin's mendacious assertion went unchallenged by the press.
A simple Google search reveals that several local physicians and their employees have used their positions and practices to fund raise for terrorism. Funds were also raised for terror related groups by the members of the mosque which had received county aid that Mary Ann Hogan objected to. Members of the mosque had rallied around Al Arian, despite his documented ties to terrorism and the fact that he had been videotaped a Islamic Association of Palestine rally where he shouted "Let us damn America,let us damn Israel, let us damn them and their allies". Not surprisingly Al Arian was also active in CAIR..http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=671
Some of the Hernando area doctors who are documented as helping to fund and facilitate terrorism are Hatim Fariz, Dr. Ayam Osman, Dr.Samir and Dr.Samar Shakfeh and surgeon Imad Tarbaishy. Dr. Tarabishy is also on the board of the North American Islamic Trust, an institution aimed at spreading Wahhabist (fundamentalist) Islam in North American.He was among the doctors who founded the Barclay Street mosque together with doctors Nazir Hamoui, Husam Shuayb, Mahmaljy.
( Another organisation connected to NAIT, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) issued a statement after Sami Al Arian's arrest condemning the U.S. government.)
Not surprisingly, all of these doctors worked on behalf of Sami Al Arian and the PIJ via their mosques and Islamic centers and some Hernando doctors were named at the terror trial and were also included in the indictment as having raised money for the terror group run by Al Arian, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The head of the PIJ who is currently dispatching suicide bombers in Iraq and Israel is Ramadan Shallah. He was brought to the University of Southern Florida by Al Arian and given a professorship before leaving in 1995 to take up the leadership of the terror group after the assassination of it's leader Fathi Shakiki by the Mossad. Shakaki's brother Khaleel also worked at USF together with Al Arian. All three men were well known in the Muslim community in Hernando and Tampa. (see Emerson Senate testimony below).
MIM: According to Skerrit, Imad Tarabishy and 'the other Muslims' he met at the Barclay Avenue mosque were suffering 'media fatique' for 'speaking out against injustices' but he fails to mention that the perceived injustices are the sentencing of Palestinian Jihad leader Sami Al Arian, PIJ funders and supporters Hatim Fariz, and the terror funding given to Al Qaeda and Hamas by the mosque prayer leader, Imad Tarabishy.
.It must be hard for Tarabishy to deal with the attention he received for his terrorist funding activities in support of the causes of Hamas and Al Qaeda, (and all the government crackdowns), combined with strain of having to keep up the pretence that Sami Al Arian, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad who had been convicted on terror charges, was innocent, and worrying about when he might be arrested one day too.
MIM: Hatim Fariz who was just sentenced (see above) was working with with Hernando doctors who were also under law enforcement scrutiny.
MIM: The acting Imam of the Barclay Street Mosque Imad Tarbishy, was cited in Senate Testimony about the Palestinian Jihad network connected to Al Arian. Tarbishy was tthe registered agent for a mosque in Portland, Oregon, which, like the one in Hernando is owned by the Saudi run North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). In addition Tarbaishy gave funding to the Benevolence International Foundation, whose founder Arnaam Ernaout was handpicked by Bin Laden. According to page 23 of the Emerson's testimony :
Imad "Ed" Tarbishy (4375 Riverburch Drive, Spring Hill, Florida 34607 and 24607 and 24013 Frederick Drive, Brookville FL 34601.
"Imad Tarabishy, a Florida surgeon who is both on the board of trustees and the board of advisors of NAIT, gave at least $76,000 dollars between 1996 and 2000 to the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) and the Global Relief Foundation (GLF). "
Nov 1, 2006
Hogans deny bashing MuslimsBy MIKE D. BATES
The Hogans said they have received several congratulatory e-mails and phone calls in support of those comments.
By late Wednesday, county commission records showed four phone calls and two e-mails in support of the Hogans and one e-mail against.
The couple, Republican stalwarts in the community, said the county has violated the separation of church and state by allowing a county employee to assist two weeks ago during a Ramadan event at the local mosque.
Now, some are trying to twist comments she made about that event in a recent letter to the editor to Hernando Today and portray she and her husband as anti-Muslim, said Mary Ann Hogan, a former chairwoman of the local Republican Party.
"My intent was certainly not political," she said. "What's important to me is that they (the county) are promoting a religion that I still find hateful and frightening."
County Parks Director Pat Fagan said the county provided outdoor games during an event at the mosque and allowed one staff member to deliver and pick those games up.
Dr. Adel Eldin, who helped organize that event, had donated $200 to the county, which is four times the security deposit the county charges for those services, Fagan said.
"I do not feel like my staff or anyone else did anything wrong," Fagan said.
Fagan said he believes this is the first time the county has helped a religious group with an event. Because of this flap, Fagan said he has directed his staff to clear any requests for help "that might be questionable about the use of county recreational equipment or personnel."
In her letter to the editor sent to both county newspapers, Mary Ann Hogan said she was "appalled" the county "rented out" personnel to the Muslim community.
"Don't the administrators of this county know that in honor of Ramadan the Muslims in Iraq have killed a even greater number of our soldiers and Marines than in the preceding months?" she wrote.
Ramadan is an Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer.
The stated goal of the Muslims is to "kill us, the infidels," she wrote.
Hogan said she's gleaned most of her knowledge about Islam from reading excerpts from the Quran, the Internet and other media sources.
Eldin's wife, Dr. Ghada Eldin, said Wednesday that Hogan's knowledge is faulty and she would welcome an opportunity to enlighten her about what she calls "the religion of peace."
"There are more than 200 Muslim families here (in Hernando County), about 65 of them are physicians who have served in the last 25 years serving the people and saving lives," Eldin said. "They didn't kill anybody."
Each year around Thanksgiving, Muslim families distribute about 3,500 food baskets to needy families, she said.
Eldin said terrorism is no respecter of religion or nationality.
"There is terrorism in the Muslim community, the Christian community and the Jewish community," she said. "Terrorism has no nationality and no specific religion."
As for passages about killing in the Quran, Eldin said she can lift passages out of context in the Bible that includes killing people.
Eldin said it's time to get beyond labels such as Muslim-Americans, Christian-Americans and Jewish-Americans.
"We are all Americans," she said.
County Commissioner Tom Hogan, who steps down from his appointed seat on the board Nov. 20, said he approves of his wife's letter.
"There's nothing that's been said that's not factual," he said.
He doesn't believe it will tarnish the image of the local Republican Party or that it represents a sour final note to his brief three-month tenure on the board. In August, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to fill the unexpired term of former county commissioner Robert Schenck.
"It wasn't intended to be a high or low note," he said. "It was intended to be an expression of the county's using taxpayer money (or) county employees to do work like that."
He questions why the county board was not notified that county personnel and equipment was going to be used at the Islamic event.
"How did this get through?" he asked.
County Administrator Gary Kuhl said he looked into the matter and found nothing unlawful or out of the norm. The staff member who delivered the games did not participate in any religious ceremony, he said.
Ana Trinque, chairwoman of the Hernando County Republican Party, said she supports the Hogans for "expressing their freedom of speech."
She also believes that certain people are using this to political advantage.
"I don't know how it got thrown into this other area of Muslim bashing," Trinque said.
"We have a lot of good Muslims who contribute to the community," she said. "But unfortunately, they don't speak up loud enough when their religion is being misused. How can that be construed as Muslim bashing?"
County Commission Chairwoman Diane Rowden said she will likely ask the board to publicly condemn Hogan at next Wednesday's land use hearing. The Muslim community is owed an apology, she said.
"I was totally flabbergasted and appalled that educated people and people who have been around this community as long as the Hogans could have such hatred," Rowden said. Hogan took an oath to uphold the health, safety and welfare of all people in Hernando County, and that includes Muslims, she said.
"I'm really sickened by this happening in Hernando County — that this is the kind of publicity we're getting," Rowden said.
But Tom Hogan said he is not surprised that Rowden and his colleagues would take exception with his comments.
"These are all people cowering for votes and they are petrified to say anything that would lose them votes," he said.
This story can be found at: http://www.hernandotoday.com/MGBL059J0UE.html
MIM: Eldin's wife, Dr. Ghada Eldin, said Wednesday that Hogan's knowledge is faulty and she would welcome an opportunity to enlighten her about what she calls "the religion of peace."
MIM: Dr. Mohamed Eldin aka Mohamed Adel El Din wife Ghada stated that around 65 Muslims in Hernando are physicians and "didnt kill anybody" but a disproporionately large number of them funded radical Islamists who did. The Hernando physicians continue to give financial and community backing to convicted Palestinan Jihad leader Sami Al Arian a former USF professor . The indictment listed over 100 people who were killed by terrorist attacks funded and planned by Al Arian via the North American base of the Palestinan Islamic Jihad which he operated out of his USF office along with two think tanks which were terror fronts.
Two local physicians, Samir Shakfeh and his wife Samara (a student at USF) were also named on the indictment for aiding and abetting Al Arian.
Two local doctors also gave money to the Holyland Foundation which was closed down for their funding of Hamas and whose trustees and founders the Elashi brothers were jailed. The Foundation had ties to Al Arian's brother Mazen Al Najjer who was treated by Hernando physicians. One of the jailed Holyland Foundation trustees, Ghassan Elashi was on the board of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a Saudi funded front group for Hamas which is leading a vilification campaign against the Hogans lead by the director of the CAIR Tampa office Ahmed Bedier.
Al-Arian, doctor had contact
By ROBERT KING, Times Staff Writer St. Petersburg Times
February 25, 2003
SPRING HILL -- Dr. Ayman Osman has described his relationship with Sami Al-Arian, accused last week of being the North American leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as only casual -- not really friends.
But Osman is one of 10 people who serve on the board of directors for the Islamic Academy of Florida, a school for Muslim children in Tampa that was founded by Al-Arian. Osman has raised cash for the school. He has two children who go there.
Osman and Al-Arian saw each other at least once a month for school business that included meetings outside of the board room, said Samar Shakfeh of Spring Hill, the president of the Islamic Academy's PTA as well as a member of the board.
"They were friends," said Shakfeh, whose husband, Samir Shakfeh, is a doctor in Hernando County too. "How close I don't know."
A woman who once answered Osman's phones said Al-Arian used to call there every day. Another former worker said that Osman gave free medical treatment to Fedaa Al-Najjar, who is married to Al-Arian's brother-in-law.
Then there was Osman's office manager -- Hatem Fariz.
Fariz, a 30-year-old resident of Spring Hill, was named in a federal indictment last week as a key player in Al-Arian's efforts to raise money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group the government says is responsible for the murder of more than 100 people in Israel and the occupied territories.
In one passage, the indictment said Fariz and Al-Arian were overheard talking on the phone last September about collecting donations from Fariz's employer. At the time, Fariz worked for Osman, though the indictment does not mention Osman by name.
The connection was tight enough that FBI agents spent a full day raiding Osman's two Hernando County offices. The FBI would not discuss whether Osman is a suspect. But some residents in Spring Hill said the FBI has asked them questions about Osman.
Osman, who was not available for comment Monday, said last week that he is not a suspect in the case and has only encouraged his staff to cooperate with authorities. If Fariz was involved in terrorist fundraising, Osman said, it must have occurred before Osman hired him last year. As a doctor, Osman said, he couldn't support any cause that promotes "senseless acts of evil."
Yet Osman has given more than $30,000 to the Global Relief Foundation, a non-profit organization that has been under investigation for terrorist connections. Other local Muslims, including the Shakfehs, said they have given money to Global Relief. They said giving opportunities were presented to them -- even at the mosque in Hernando County -- as an opportunity to help the poor.
Osman's former employees have said they never saw fundraising activities of any kind in their offices. But there were other things they couldn't explain.
Osman and Fariz had a habit of stockpiling free drug samples left by pharmaceutical company representatives and, then, the drugs would disappear overnight. Even the pens and pads of papers given to staffers by the drug representatives were collected by Osman and Fariz, one staffer said, so they could be given to charities.
Office workers said both men zealously guarded mail deliveries and faxes and that no one else was allowed to look at them or handle them.
Those workers asked not to be identified by the Times for fear of reprisals.
Linda Hoins, a former billing clerk for Osman, said she was allowed to mail out bills, but never to take in the cash. Osman took it all, she said.
Workers said such procedures were outside the norm of their experiences at other offices.
Fariz came to Spring Hill last year from Chicago, where he was president of the Chicago Islamic Center and the listed agent for a charity known as the American Muslim Care Network.
Osman said he hired Fariz after he answered a help wanted ad.
Both Osman and Fariz both sent their school-age children to Al-Arian's Islamic Academy. The children rode the same academy bus with the Shakfeh children, the Shakfehs said.
Al-Arian founded the academy 11 years ago. It has grown from 23 students -- three of them Al-Arian's -- to more than 250. The school, with children from kindergarten to grade 12, boasts a teaching staff of about 35. It sits on 14 acres in an unincorporated swath near Temple Terrace in Hillsborough County.
Al-Arian taught classes several days a week. He has said in the past that he took no salary from the school. Most academy students go on to graduate from college, according to the school.
Samar Shakfeh said she was not concerned that the negative attention drawn to the academy might cost it its non-profit status or its private financial support. She is convinced that the school "will come out clear."
"I have no doubt in my mind the school is running a perfectly legal operation," said Mrs. Shakfeh. "I see the budget and there is not a penny that goes outside the school, much less outside the country."
Shakfeh said she and her husband have given the academy $10,000 over the past two years in donations beyond what they spent on tuition.
-- Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to [email protected] . Times staff writer Graham Brink contributed to this report.
By ROBERT KING, Times Staff Writer
published March 16, 2003
The Islamic Academy of Florida, recently described in a federal indictment as a base of operations for a local terrorist cell, is in Hillsborough County. But its ties to Hernando County are strong -- stronger than geography alone would suggest.
Four of the 10 people who sit on the Islamic Academy's board of trustees are from Hernando.
The school is owned by the North American Islamic Trust, the same Saudi-backed organization that owns Hernando County's lone mosque.
And the trust's president, Dr. Bassam Osman, is the brother of Dr. Ayman Osman, a Hernando County physician and Islamic Academy board member.
Founded in 1992 by University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, the Islamic Academy lists its mission as encouraging the religious, academic and social growth of its students.
Yet in the federal indictment unsealed last month, the Islamic Academy earned seven mentions in relation to Al-Arian and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an organization the U.S. government says is committed to the use of violence to thwart the Middle East peace process.
Already, the terrorism indictments had hit close to home for Hernando County.
One of the eight men indicted was Hatem Fariz, who moved to Spring Hill from Chicago last year. Alleged to be one of Al-Arian's "co-conspirators," Fariz was the practice manager for Dr. Ayman Osman, whose two Hernando offices have been searched by the FBI.
The indictments also raise questions about the Islamic Academy, a school clearly with more than casual ties to Hernando County.
The people in a position to best answer those questions -- local parents and board members -- have adopted a code of silence.
What little has been said came two weeks ago when the Times had a brief interview with Dr. Samir Shakfeh and his wife, Samar, the Islamic Academy's Parent Teacher Association president. They described the academy as a drug-free, violence-free school with a strong academic mission.
Mrs. Shakfeh, who also is a member of Islamic Academy's board of trustees, said she had served on the budget committee and felt certain that money donated to the school had not been diverted. She also expressed certainty that the school's arrested officers would eventually be cleared.
Yet, Mrs. Shakfeh has declined to answer follow-up questions. Other academy board members from Hernando County -- Dr. Allam Reheem, Nuha Armashi and Osman -- have not responded to phone messages, faxes and hand-delivered letters from the Times. The same is true of the school's principal and board chairman.
The indictment alleges that the Islamic Academy was, effectively, a base of support for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group said to be responsible for the murders of more than 100 people in Israel and its occupied territories.
It says the academy's offices were used to communicate with Islamic Jihad operatives. And it says a woman seeking to support the Palestinian cause was told simply to write a check to the academy.
Along with Al-Arian, the indictment prompted the arrest of the Islamic Academy's treasurer, Sameeh Hammoudeh, and a raid of the school's offices by federal agents, who carted out more than a dozen boxes of materials.
Key questions remain.
Was the Islamic Academy a front for an operation to raise money for terrorism? Have donations that were intended for academic purposes been diverted to terrorists? And what kind of oversight did board members provide to safeguard their school from subterfuge?
Norman Gross thinks such questions deserve answers.
As chairman of the Anti-Hate Committee for the Greater Florida B'nai B'rith, an international Jewish organization, Gross has long been concerned about Al-Arian's association with groups involved in terrorism against Israel.
Now, Gross said, board members at the Islamic Academy should be talking about what has been going on within their school. "Where does the money go? There doesn't seem to be any real accountability," Gross said.
After numerous tries to gain comment from Islamic Academy representatives, the Times was contacted by a Tampa representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and asked to stop harassing people affiliated with the school.
Council spokesman Ahmed Bedier said the allegations in the indictment are levied against individuals, not the Islamic Academy itself. He notes that the University of South Florida received similar mentions.
"It's basically saying that -- wherever those people worked or lived -- those are places that might have been fronts to do those things," Bedier said. "It's not necessarily the type of organization it was -- an Islamic school. It could have happened everywhere else."
The school's Web site says there are 313 students enrolled at the Islamic Academy this year. Despite Hernando's substantial representation on the board, the Shakfehs said only six or seven children from Hernando County attend the academy.
The holders of the title to the school property, the North American Islamic Trust, also holds title to the mosque at 130th Ave. E in Temple Terrace and the Hernando mosque at 6307 Barclay Avenue in Spring Hill.
The trust owns about 27 percent of the 1,200 mosques in the United States. Its president, Dr. Bassam Osman, did not return calls. Nor did Dr. Husam Shuayb, whom local property records list as the local contact for the North American Islamic Trust.
Shuayb's son, local dentist Mohammad Shuayb, flatly rejected an e-mail request from the Times for an interview.
"There is nothing to talk about," he said. "The continuous assault on Islam by the media is unprecedented. We have no trust in the media. No news at this point is the best news. We have no 'need' to talk about anything."
-- Times researchers Cathy Wos and Caryn Baird contributed to this report, which includes information from Times files. Robert King covers Spring Hill .
MIM: In 2004 the Barclay Avenue mosque was the subject of an uncritical puff piece in the local newspaper. The mosque is part of the Saudi funded North American Islamic Trust,and received a visit from Syeed Sayid the head of the Islamic Society of North American. Sayid disingenuously stated that the mosque had 'distanced itself from Saudi funding' which probably means that they are getting more money from the UAE and other rich Muslim countries then from the KSA.
United by Faith
A call for understanding
Believers mark their days in prayer. They fill their lives with obedience. Now they hope others can look at them and see peace, not planes, towers or terrorists.
By ROBERT KING
In crowded cities around the Muslim world, the call to prayer is shouted over rooftops from the pinnacles of towering mosques.
In Hernando County, the call to prayer is announced in a much quieter voice, one that fits with the humble simplicity of the county's lone mosque on Barclay Avenue.
Yet, the call, chanted in Arabic, carries the same message:
God is most great, God is most great.
I bear witness that there is no god but God.
I bear witness that Mohammed is a messenger of God.
Hasten to prayer.
Hasten to success.
God is most great.
There is no god but God.
Each line but the last is said twice. As they are spoken, every man, woman and child in the little building on Barclay faces a window to the east.
Spiritually, the prayers orient Muslims toward a black cube half a world away - the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the stone structure, wrapped in black silk, that Muslims believe Abraham built as the first house of worship to God.
For most of the Muslims in Hernando County, the Kaaba is much closer to their place of birth than is the mosque on the eastern edge of Spring Hill.
In that sense, the five daily prayers - which are an obligation of their faith - also help local Muslims set their spiritual compass as they go about life in a country that understands little about their faith. And it aligns them with another billion Muslims around the world.
"Everybody has to pray in the same direction, no matter where they are," said Towheed Ramjohn, a retired lab technician and one of the county's newest Muslims.
"It brings humanity together, no matter what nationality."
Muslims pray together in the mosque and at home on their living room floors.
But the demands of living in accord with prescribed prayers throughout the day means they may pray even in places as public as Busch Gardens.
As such, most Muslims keep a clean prayer rug in the trunks of their cars.
This intense devotion - as well as the larger script of the Muslim faith - is still something of a mystery to the broader populace of Hernando County.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the subject of what it means to be a Muslim is being asked more frequently than ever. The underlying concern - not always voiced - is whether the hijackers of 9/11 were crazed fanatics or whether Islam contains some sort of hidden justification for their actions.
Some local Muslims welcome the questions; some despise them. Others are too fearful to discuss it. Regardless of where they stand, their faith is being tested.
Worship practices rich with meaning
The mosque on Barclay Avenue - like the people who worship within it - does little to attract attention. About a mile south of Brookridge, it is a modest structure that easily could be confused with any of a million beige-colored, block homes in Florida.
Unlike the ornate mosques of the Middle East, it has no gold domes, no towering minarets. Inside, there are no archways and no tapestries; it is basically empty.
Upon arriving at the mosque, worshipers take off their shoes.
They leave them in racks or piles just inside the door. The idea is to leave the filth of the world outside, away from a place where they come and place their foreheads on the floor in submission to a God who is pure.
Purity is a recurring theme for Muslims.
Women are taught not to enter the mosque when they have their menstrual periods, a custom also scene in Jewish Levitical law. Most will even forgo daily prayers while menstruating.
Nearly one-third of the mosque's space is devoted to washrooms that worshipers use to cleanse themselves before prayer. They splash water on their face, hair, neck and feet. Some go so far as to snuff water into their nose to clean out nasal impurities.
During a visit last year, the Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter, pastor of Spring Hill United Church of Christ, observed the washing rituals and came away impressed.
"I thought there was a respect for the sacred," he said.
Men sit in the front of the mosque; women in the back.
The geography is strongly emblematic of the Muslim concept of modesty. Men and women go to great lengths to remain separate when mingling outside their immediate families. It is a practice observed at picnics and banquets. And never do Muslim adults swim with people of the opposite sex who are outside their family.
Part of it goes to the belief that when an unmarried man and a woman are alone in the same room, only the devil is there with them.
It also is a pragmatic way of acknowledging how Muslims pray - on their knees, their foreheads on the floor and their posteriors in the air. In such a position, it would be distracting to the men if the women were praying in front of them.
"It has nothing to do with superiority," said Ghada Eldin, a Spring Hill mother of three. "It's just kind of a respect to the woman's body."
Even so, women in the mosque are left with an obscured view of the service. A partition that splits the front of the mosque from the back leaves the women with such a limited view that, at most, only three or four women can actually see the speaker. The rest look at a wall.
During most days, the mosque draws only a few worshipers. A few more show up at night for the final prayer of the day.
The largest gatherings of the week occur at the Friday afternoon jumua service, when attendance is required for men but left optional for women. It typically draws 40 to 45 men, but only four or five women.
Kelly McElmurry, an American-born Muslim convert who served in the Army, says men receive the most blessings while attending the mosque; women while serving in the home.
Eldin says it is something more simple than that: "Most of the ladies here are so busy."
Indeed, as the jumua begins, most of the women in the community are outside in the parking lot collecting their children, who have just arrived on a bus from Tampa, where they attend classes at a Muslim school.
Fostering belief in the "exemplary'
Those who attend the Friday service acknowledge God with their own silent prayers, then take a seat. After the call to prayer is spoken, most often by Indian-born physician Syed Ali, someone stands to deliver a short speech.
Islam tends to downplay the role of clergy, and there is no equivalent to a full-time pastor or priest. In Islam, learned men are supposed to serve as prayer leaders, or imams. A handful of men take turns delivering the Friday sermons. Dr. Ghiath Mahmaljy, chief of medicine at Oak Hill Hospital, frequently delivers the Friday speech and is as close to an imam as you will find in Hernando's mosque.
Mahmaljy, who grew up in Syria, has memorized much of the Koran and recites it well. He has spent considerable time studying the life of Mohammed and his sayings. He even writes poetry in Arabic.
But Mahmaljy says he has no formal schooling as a spiritual leader. His understanding of Islam has been a matter of personal effort.
Like most other local Muslims, Mahmaljy was born to an Islamic family in an Islamic country.
"From the time I grew up, my father was one who regularly went to the mosque," he said. "While I was watching TV, he would be sitting in the corner reading the Koran."
Imad Tarabishy, an orthopedic surgeon from Syria, also delivers Friday messages. In addition, the list of teachers includes cardiologist Adel Eldin, physical therapist Ihab Amin and neurologist Mohamad Saleh.
The sermons are delivered from a niche in front of the east-facing windows, with the speaker usually standing on a green prayer rug.
The teachings are based on the Koran, which is the Muslim holy book. They also draw from a collection of Mohammed's sayings known as the hadiths, and a collection of anecdotes about the life and deeds of Mohammed known as the Sunna.
Sentence by sentence, words from the sacred texts are first spoken in Arabic and then translated - as best they can be - into English. In conversation, local Muslims use the terms God and Allah (pronounced ah-LAH) as interchangeable names for the same deity.
In the Friday sermons, the name of choice is Allah.
Yet in the mosque - and throughout this community of Muslims - Allah is a faceless god.
That's because Muslims make no attempt to draw or paint the divine likeness. They consider doing so akin to creating an idol. The same goes with important figures such as Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed, whom Muslims revere as the last in a long list of divinely inspired prophets.
Even without a face to visualize, the hand of God is never far from guiding the Muslim's daily life - as is evident from the teachings at the Friday jumuas.
In the past year, Muslims were taught to be chaste and charitable, to keep their promises and to perform their five daily prayers on time. They were told to be humble and eager to reconcile disputes, willing to give a helping hand and to point others toward good works.
They were told to be patient, hold their tongues when angry and show thankfulness to their parents; to give to the poor and go to the mosque, to repent of their sins and to love one another - always striving to build a cohesive community.
They heard about the importance of greeting each other with peace and about giving sincere advice; about blessing sneezes and accepting invitations. They were taught to visit the ill and go to funerals, earnestly praying that God would forgive the sins of the dead - one last favor a person can do for a friend and an important gesture that can help the deceased on their difficult transition to the afterlife.
Along with the dos, the sermons covered plenty of don'ts.
Muslims are not to fornicate, commit adultery or engage in homosexuality - the latter being considered a highly egregious activity that makes the heavens shake.
They should not hate "or envy" or backbite. They should avoid the temptation to take vague or misleading passages from the sacred texts to support their own opinions. Rather than argue, it is better they give up and walk away - a concession said to earn the gracious a big house in paradise. They should not be arrogant or greedy, waste food or be miserly. They should not call each other names or look for faults in others. They should not worship idols or eat pork in any shape or form.
Overall, there is extraordinary attention paid to personal perfection. And believers are frequently reminded of the scorecard God is keeping - the one upon which their good deeds and bad are being tallied for a final day of reckoning.
"A Muslim," said Mahmaljy during one of his Friday speeches, "should be an exemplary human being."
Faiths share some common ground
In many ways, the setting in the mosque is academic, which puts it in line with the advanced educational level of the audience; 90 percent of those who attend are physicians.
The services generally last about 45 minutes, and attire is casual. Some of the doctors show up in blue surgical scrubs.
Aside from the melodic prayers, there is nothing in the mosque akin to music. And there are no jokes in the sermons; laughter from the listeners is extremely rare.
"We have the rest of the week to joke," said Mohammad Shuayb, a 34-year-old dentist who was born in Syria but grew up in Hernando County. "We can come here and be sincere."
And so it is that, aside from the frequent chirp of doctors' pagers, the worshipers sit in silence.
In contrast to all this studious listening is the behavior of the children, who come and go during the service with reckless abandon.
As the sermon is delivered, they run through the middle of the crowd of seated men. They laugh and talk loudly in the back where the women sit. Only their most boisterous behavior draws even a gentle admonition to be quiet.
The men say the permissive attitude toward kids is drawn from the example of the prophet Mohammed, who advised gentleness in dealing with the young.
To new students of their culture, local Muslims are eager to note that their religion shares the same family tree as Judaism and Christianity; Abraham is the father of their line, too.
They frequently point out that Adam, Moses, Abraham, Solomon, John the Baptist, Mary and Jesus are all mentioned in the Koran. And these characters turn up periodically in sermons at the mosque.
Even so, Jews and Christians would not recognize the Koran's version of their exploits.
Muslims are taught that Abraham's favored son was Ishmael, not Isaac as the Bible describes. Muslims hear that Jesus was not the son of God because God doesn't beget children.
Instead, they believe Jesus was merely one of the prophets - that it wasn't Jesus who died on the cross, but someone made to look like him. As such, they don't believe he was raised from the dead, as the New Testament teaches.
Mahmaljy says the scriptures that preceded the Koran - specifically the Old and New Testaments of the Bible - were not preserved in their totality.
Muslims believe that the Bible's veracity was compromised through repeated translations; some even pin the blame on the apostle Paul.
That said, local Muslims downplay these differences and espouse their appreciation for what the Koran calls "the people of the book" - Jews and Christians. They say there is no reason Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot peacefully co-exist.
Ali Ben Haloua, a local Muslim originally from Tunisia, considers the distinctions among the faiths to be "small details."
"Why look for something deeper you cannot explain?" Haloua said. "Leave it to God."
Violence of 9/11 not rooted in Islam
As for 9/11, a few local Muslims aren't convinced that Muslims or Arabs were responsible for the terrorist attacks. They simply doubt the evidence left behind and the government that claimed Islamic terrorists were behind the hijackings.
More common, though, is the belief that the Sept. 11 hijackers were fanatics acting on their political beliefs rather than something espoused in Islam.
To kill an innocent person, they note, is like killing all humanity. Terrorism, they say, is utterly inconsistent with the faith.
Mahmaljy likens the hijackers to people who convince themselves that bombing an abortion clinic is a righteous cause. Theirs was not a religious act in a holy war but a murderous response to America's unbending support of Israel in its dealings with the Palestinians.
Local Muslims sympathize greatly with the Palestinians, whom they see as a people driven from their rightful land when Israel was created in 1948.
But Mahmaljy said such sympathy does not justify what happened on Sept. 11.
Americans have become familiar with the term "jihad," which is popularly defined as some type of Muslim holy war.
But local Muslims say jihad means something much different than a call to violence.
Mahmaljy said one aspect of jihad can indeed refer to fighting to defend one's homes or property from religious persecution. But he says these fights are purely defensive, and they cannot be arbitrarily called by a single person; they must be declared by a nation.
Dr. Allam Reheem, an anesthesiologist originally from Egypt, said jihad can also be applied in much the same way Americans talk about a war on drugs, a war on crime or a war on illiteracy. But it most often refers to a personal battle within oneself.
"Jihad is fighting for the good, and not in a sense of a sword or gun, but in your desires," said Dr. Mahmoud Nimer, a Muslim cardiologist originally from Palestine. "It is like telling the truth in the face of a tyrant."
Reheem said jihad is about developing self-discipline.
"When a student works hard and stays up nights to do his or her homework - that's a jihad. When you discipline yourself to do everything right and overcome your shortcomings - that's jihad," he said. "Anything worthwhile or worth doing requires self-discipline."
One religion with many differences
The disciplines of the Muslim faith reveal themselves in other ways, too.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn to sunset. And it is during Ramadan that they most often open up their wallets for charitable donations.
During the hajj - the pilgrimage to Mecca that all able Muslims are to perform once in their lives - they endure several days of exhausting rituals. They spend a night in the desert, a day praying on a mountainside and make repeated forays into the vast throng of humanity that walks in a circular path around the Kaaba - the place where their prayers have been directed for a lifetime.
Among all Muslims, the essential issue of belief is that there is only one God and that Mohammed was his final prophet.
Under that grand tent, Muslims have carved out differences on peripheral issues.
The greatest division - between Sunnis and Shiites - relates to the interpretation of who was the rightful heir to lead the faithful after the death of Mohammed.
Nearly all the Muslims in Hernando County are Sunnis, a term that Americans hear about mostly in connection with the Sunni triangle - an area that has been particularly troublesome to the coalition forces occupying Iraq.
Mohamad Saleh, a local neurologist, says the troublesome nature of the Sunni triangle has nothing to do with the Sunni branch of Islam and everything to do with the political perks the people there enjoyed during the reign of Saddam Hussein, who grew up among them.
Regardless of differences, Saleh says Muslims should pursue a middle road, not embrace extremes. The Sunni-Shiite division doesn't play a major role in the teachings of Hernando County's mosque, which was established in 1986.
The mosque was founded by a group of the first Muslim doctors - including Nazir Hamoui, Husam Shuayb, Mahmaljy and Tarabishy - who contributed the funds to get it built.
Shuayb owned the property for a time, but eventually donated it to the North American Islamic Trust, which owns mosques and Muslim schools around the country.
Local Muslim leaders say the trust insulates the mosque from radical influences that might try to take it over and corrupt its moderate teachings. Otherwise, they say the trust's influence is nonexistent.
Even so, the leader of the trust's parent organization paid a visit in December.
Sayyid Syeed, secretary general of the Indianapolis-based Islamic Society of North America, said his visit was a thank-you to Muslims here for their financial support last year of a conference of Muslim educators.
Syeed conveyed a message of tolerance that local Muslims applauded. He also sought to distance the Islamic Society from its past financial backing by people in Saudi Arabia - a practice he says ended more than 10 years ago.
This is important, local Muslims say, because they do not like their version of Islam to be identified with the type of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia.
Known as Wahhabism, the state religion of Saudi Arabia is a much more rigid, and some say intolerant, version of the faith, particularly with regard to the rights of women.
Hamoui said that while the Hernando mosque identifies with what he considers the progressive philosophies of the Islamic Society and the North American Islamic Trust, the local mosque stands on its own teachings apart from any outside influences.
Clearly, those teachings make it abundantly clear that a Muslim is responsible for his own actions.
Satan and hell and a day of judgment are as much a part of the doctrinal conversation in the mosque as in any Baptist or Pentecostal church in the county.
Believers are warned that life on Earth is short and that they had better be living it to serve others.
Delivering a sermon last summer, Tarabishy told his community that even their smallest acts of good and evil are being counted for the final judgment. Malice and ill-spoken words count against a Muslim. But even smiles and hellos are credited to them.
So is each letter they read from the Koran.
And so are their visits to the little mosque on Barclay Avenue.
"With every step you take toward the mosque," Tarabishy said, "your reward in heaven increases."
- Times researchers Caryn Baird, Kitty Bennett and Jenny Lichtenwalner contributed to this project. Robert King can be reached at 352 848-1432. Send e-mail to [email protected]
SPRING HILL - Two-year-old Maryam Shuayb knew she had arrived at a party Monday morning.
"She was so excited when we got here," said Raghed Kalaaji, her mother, while standing with a crowd outside the mosque on Barclay Avenue. "She said, "It's a birthday.' "
With a ring of brightly colored beads around her neck, Maryam took a break from playing to briefly stand next to her mother, who held 8-month-old Yusuf in her arms.
Along with father Mujib Shuayb, the Spring Hill family came to the mosque to celebrate the end of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr, or the end of fasting.
The day means treats for children and the chance for families and friends to spend time with one other. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight as a way to cleanse the soul, practice self-discipline and remember those less fortunate.
Monday's celebration marked the first time Eid al-Fitr festivities were held in the county. Families here usually travel to the larger carnival, with bigger rides and games, in Tampa.
Children stayed busy bouncing up and down inside a Moonwalk, and enjoying games, candy, beads and small toys that were passed out Monday. Adults enjoyed relaxing and conversing with one another - men in one area and women in another - as they watched the children.
"This is historic for Hernando County," said Dr. Adel Eldin, who helped organize the festivities. "It's refreshing to see this, people here celebrating together. We really wanted to do something special for the kids."
The party started after morning prayers and a light breakfast - nothing too heavy for stomachs not used to food, Eldin explained. It would go on as long as the children wanted to play, he said.
Eldin also hoped that Monday's celebration would remind county residents that not all Muslims are bad, as some perceive.
"It's a tough time for Muslims," he said. "Some of these children here, they have been harassed and called names. Some of the women mocked for their head scarves. Unfortunately, that will take a toll on these children. We want to show people that we are proud Americans and Muslims."
Since 1984, Hernando Muslims have worshiped at the mosque on Barclay. In a year, the members hope to have a larger mosque built next to the current building. They are in the process of collecting money and drawing blueprints for the project.
On Monday morning, spots to pray on the mosque floor were scarce. While the county's Muslim community is growing, with about 200 members, it is still small compared to others.
But that's exactly what Raghed Kalaaji likes. After living in cities like Boston and Pittsburgh, she recently moved to Spring Hill with her husband, who has family in the county.
"You get to know people better," Kalaaji said. "When it's bigger, sometimes you don't have the chance to really meet people. I like it here."
Though her family had plans to go to Tampa later Monday with others, Kalaaji said the Hernando celebration was a good way to celebrate the end of Ramadan. There was plenty for the children to do.
For her, Ramadan is a time of worship and spiritualness.
"In America, there really isn't anything like this - a month-long holiday," she said. "We get together every day, and on the weekends there are dinners for everyone. It's a different thing that we don't experience the rest of the year. It's almost a little bit sad when it's over."
Chandra Broadwater can be reached at [email protected] or 352 848-1432.
Muslim bashing sets off furor, Nov. 1
This is about a letter sent to the newspaper from Mary Ann Hogan, the wife of Tom Hogan Sr., a Hernando County commissioner appointed by the governor in August to fill a vacated seat on the County Commission. Mr. Hogan agrees with his wife's assessment of Muslims.
I am a registered Republican, and I ask the governor to remove Mr. Hogan from this position posthaste. His assessment of and agreement with his wife's statements are not the opinions of respected Republicans in our country. This bigotry and religion bashing should be quelled immediately.
Mr. and Mrs. Hogan also should be removed from representing the Republican Party in Hernando County, as they do not speak for or represent the qualities needed to be spokespersons for the GOP.
- E.H. Jordan, Brooksville
Muslims deserve public apology
I am appalled by the offensive comments made by Commissioner Thomas Hogan Sr. and his wife, Mary Ann, in reference to Muslims in our community. Although Mrs. Hogan has the right to voice her opinion, Commissioner Hogan has sworn obligations to represent everyone in our community fairly and without any prejudice.
The Muslins in our community deserve a public apology for these disgraceful comments. If Commissioner Hogan is unwilling to apologize, then an immediate vote of censure is in order by the commissioners to condemn these outrageous, bigoted statements.
- Anna Liisa Covell, Nobleton
Faith is a motive for terrorism
I am saddened, but not surprised, that Mary Ann Hogan's comments about the Islamic faith have left the Hernando community "aghast" and resulted in calls for the resignation of her husband, Commissioner Tom Hogan Sr. While indeed inflammatory to moderate Muslims and Christians, they have not said anything that is inconsistent with Islam as it is presented in the Koran.
We live in a society that happily picks and chooses our Christian or Muslim values, ignoring or downplaying the hatred, judgment and violence that permeate the holy books of these two religions. Although I depart from Tom Hogan in his statement that "all terrorists are Muslims," I challenge the offended segment of the Hernando community to find an alternative motive for major terrorist attacks against America. Overwhelmingly, the base motive is religion, and until we as a society recognize this and are willing to criticize the irrationality of faith, we will continue to validate fundamentalism throughout the world.
- William Klinger, Tampa
Mary Ann Hogan is correct
To all the ones who objected to Mr. and Mrs. Hogan to exercising their freedom of speech:
I'm amazed at the lack of knowledge of all concerned. Not one of this group took the time to research the Muslim religion, or they would have had to support Mrs. Hogan. Mrs. Hogan was correct in citing the church and state argument.
I commend both Mr. and Mrs. Hogan. I'm not Republican or Democrat; I belong to the Veterans Party.
- Alfred T. DeVault, Brooksville
Speak out with common sense
Re: Recent articles about the Muslim community and Mr. and Mrs. Hogan:
It's time for Americans to speak out with common sense and throw political correctness to the wind. As a 16-year resident of this community, please know that I'm not the least bit taken aback or offended by the Hogans' honesty. If everyone who has been so horribly traumatized by this blown-out-of-proportion issue would just step back and use their good old common sense, it might very well change your opinion.
I have to agree completely with the Hogans' remarks because I, like them, have read of not one terrorist incident that wasn't led or carried out by Muslims. These Muslims that you so adamantly support with your liberal rhetoric, and for whom you would sell out your country, consider you an infidel and the devil, and the radical side of the Muslim religion would kill you and your family in an instant with absolutely no remorse.
I do agree that not all Muslims are radical Muslim terrorists. But I would ask the question of those who aren't terrorists that if your religion is so loving and wonderful, then why are all terrorists of the Muslim faith? I would venture to say the majority of Americans would like to have an answer to this question.
The right we have to speak our minds is one of our most precious rights, and shame on those politicians, liberals and intellectuals, locally and nationally, who forget this. Also, if our local leaders think for one minute they represent us with their political correctness, shame on them again.
I owe my allegiance to God and country, and not the Muslims or liberals of the world. It doesn't matter to me what your religion or ethnicity, if your allegiance is not to this country, then please leave.
- Carl Pilcher, Brooksville
It's time for Tom Hogan to retire
I've never felt compelled to write a letter to any newspaper, but I read about the ignorant and appalling letter by Mary Ann Hogan in the Nov. 1 issue of the Times and felt a need to respond.
Mrs. Hogan's words in this letter, as condoned by her husband, Commissioner Tom Hogan Sr., showed a lack of tolerance and knowledge that no one in public office in this country should have. Seeing that the Hogans, "the leading Republicans in Hernando County," have been active in politics since the 1960s, what was their stand on the civil rights movement?
The Hogans are stereotyping a whole religion for one small fanatical faction. To say that all Muslim people are killers is to say that all Irish people are drunks. I am an Irish-American and far from a drunk. Let us not forget the Oklahoma City bombings were carried out by Americans.
My brother fought as a Marine in Desert Storm. He saw many friends come home injured or in body bags. Being from New Jersey until recently, I stood on the cliffs of Atlantic Highlands and watched in terror as the Twin Towers fell in New York City. I know many people who lost loved ones in this act of terrorism. To blame a whole group for wanting to "kill all of us as infidels" is just plain ignorant. Do not forget that unless you are an American Indian, someone in your family, at some point, left their country for a better life in America.
As for the county monies spent to drop off four children's games for a Ramadan party, I wonder how much county time and money are spent on the Christmas Parade in downtown Brooksville each year? Probably more than $200. (Not that I would have it any other way!)
As a taxpayer and voter, I see no reason why a group should be barred from making use of county facilities and benefits, as Dr. Adel Eldin does with his annual health fair and at great expense to himself. As a prominent Muslim, Republican and cardiologist in Hernando County, Dr. Eldin has saved many people of all races, religions and creeds. Mr. and Mrs. Hogan, if you were lying on a hospital bed today, he would do all in his power to help you.
The Hogans are entitled to their opinions, no matter how ignorant and uneducated they are. This is America and because we are a free nation, we can say what we please.
I do think that it is time for Tom Hogan to retire from public life before he causes himself and the Republican party any further embarrassment.
- Christopher J. Casey, Spring Hill
Hogan right to ask questions
I have to agree with the Hogans that the crux of the letter sent to the newspapers that has caused such an uproar questioned the validity of the use of county employees, time and materials for a private religious event. Mr. Hogan, as a county commissioner, had every right to question such use of tax dollars. By Parks and Recreation Director Pat Fagan's own admission, sending county employees to help with a religious event had not been done in the past, and now he says he's not going to do it again.
The stifling of free speech is beginning to affect even Hernando County. Non-Muslims are becoming increasingly frightened to say anything critical about Islam. Indeed, at even the mildest criticism comes a frenzy of blind anger and intimidation from even moderate Muslims, who are, however, conveniently quiet when it comes to condemning the radicals who have stolen their religion of peace. Unless we start hearing some denunciations from the quiet moderates regarding the radical insurgents and extremists who are not only killing our troops but are also killing their own, there will always be distrust.The Hogans are right; county personnel or materials should not be used for any religious purposes, no matter the religion, or the promised donation, and I am surprised that county administrator Gary Kuhl saw nothing wrong with this use of county resources.
- A. Goodwin, Spring Hill
Hogans have tainted county
As the director of a nonprofit organization in our community I make it a point to abstain from political and religious affiliations publicly due to my responsibilities to my organization. But I have a personal limit. I am writing this letter as a citizen of the United States and a resident of Hernando County, momentarily divorced from my organization.
While I am appalled and devastated by the actions of terrorists, I cannot sit silent while a county official advocates such a hateful platform. I am ashamed to say I live in a county where Tom Hogan Sr. is allowed to retain his commissioner's seat after espousing such bigoted and prejudicial remarks. He is entitled to his beliefs, but he has proven he cannot represent all of our residents fairly and is intent on turning us against one another.
People are people; most are good and some are terribly evil. Our jails are filled with Americans of all faiths who have committed horrendously hateful crimes. Yet we don't condemn all Americans. Hate of any kind is the source of terrorism. Look at Ireland. They are not Muslims and yet terrorism has run rampant. It is hate and intolerance, pure and simple, that cause such tragedies.
I believe Mr. and Mrs. Hogan have tainted our county, our state, our country and the Republican Party with their hate. As a public servant Mr. Hogan certainly does not represent me, as I am sure he does not represent the majority of our residents.
We have many wonderful Muslim residents who have worked hard and contributed much to make Hernando County a great place to live and a community to be proud of. I wish I could say the same for the Hogans.
- Joanne Schoch, Spring Hill
We don't know opinions of others
The guy at the corner store, how does he view the Iraq War?
What does he think of the Hogan fuss? Does he really plan on killing us?
Is he really part of a ruthless mob? Or, just like us, a working slob?
- John Albert, Spring Hill
[Last modified November 8, 2006, 10:17:25]
MIM: Excerpt for an article about the Muslim community in Hernando with backgrounds of some of the members shows that they came to America with the aim of transplanting their former way of life here, despite their protestations of patriotism for media consumption. A case in point is that of one Hernando physician who was suspended in 2001 for saying Americans had gotten what they deserved on 9/11.
Dr. Durgarao Parimi -- On the day of the attacks, the Hernando County physician told other doctors America got what it deserved. Amid the outcry that followed, the Indian-born, Muslim doctor was suspended by Oak Hill Hospital, then reinstated two months later after he apologized. Parimi, 58, an American citizen for 21 years, said he "misstated" his concerns over a breakdown in American security. http://www.sptimes.com/2002/09/09/911/People_who_made_the_h.shtml
MIM: One local resident tried to defend Parimi -intimating that his remarks must have been some kind of terrible misunderstanding; and equated his critics with the hijackers.
"...His patients who know him as a person, as well as their physician, know that his statement was mistakenly taken and meant no hatred or disrespect for America. I am supporting the doctor 100 percent.
All the individuals who are showing a lack of respect and total disregard for the excellent physicians in our county are acting no better than the people who attacked our nation. We all need to unite and pray for peace..."
MIM: According to the article below the mosque was just the beginning of the Islamist foothold in Hernando. In 2003 the head of the Islamic Society of North America, Sayeed Sayid visited the Hernando mosque and announced that America must continue to pay due deference to Islam so that Muslims would thrive and create the United States of Allah.
"By 1986, a small group of Muslim physicians chipped in to buy land on Barclay Avenue - between Powell Road and State Road 50 between Brooksville and Spring Hill - to build a mosque.
"According to the religion, you establish a community through a mosque," Shuayb said. "We met an obligation of the faith. When you go somewhere, a Muslim should feel deficient until a mosque is built."
MIM: Sayeed's statement is a case study in Islamist brazenness and arrogance. On one hand he and his fellow Islamists at ISNA despise America for being a superpower,yet he tells the media that America must protect Muslims and because it is their special duty to 'make sure they thrive'.
2004 SPRING HILL - The leader of the nation's largest Islamic group told local Muslims on Sunday that tolerance for other faiths and respect for women has made Islam in America a model for the rest of the Muslim world.
Sayyid Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, also said America's standing as the world's lone superpower gives it a special duty to ensure its Muslim community continues to thrive, particularly in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks....
Some examples of how the Muslims in Hernando adhere to an Islamist agenda.
Nazir Hamoui : Despite having spent time in Detroit and New York City Nazir Hamoui went back to Syria and married his a 14 year old girl when he was 30, a practice known as pedofilia under American law, which apparently did not hinder his return to the United States with her and their 2 year old son.
Mahmoud Nimer, a poster boy for the local terrorist template:
According to the article Nimer came from a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank and his "passion for the cause of his people is as strong now as when he left them nearly two decades ago"...."he considers the American government's unquestioning support of Israel to be shameful."
Sowing seeds of a new community
Nazir Hamoui was born in Damascus.
Like most Syrians, he took the faith his family taught him.
"I was born a Muslim. I was raised a Muslim," he said.
Though he studied at Damascus University Medical School, Hamoui longed for the chance to train in the world's finest medical system - in the United States. So, in 1972, he left his homeland and came to America.
He spent a year in Detroit and six in New York City. In the midst of his training, he paused long enough to return home to Syria to marry.
Nazir was 30 years old. His new wife, Nada, was 14 - not an uncommon age gap in Arab culture.
By 1979, with his training winding down, Hamoui began looking for a place to start a practice, preferably somewhere with a demand for urologists.
He noticed an ad in a medical journal that touted Hernando County as one of the fastest-growing counties in the country. The man behind it, Brooksville gynecologist Jose Berrios, needed a place to send patients whose problems were better suited to a urologist.
Hamoui took the job.
Nazir, Nada and their 2-year-old son, Omar, left New York for a county in Florida with 40,000 residents and only a handful of doctors.
Nada found the place peaceful, and suitable for raising children. It was close enough to Tampa - a city with a mosque - that she could associate with other Muslims.
But without even a Kmart or a Pizza Hut, Hernando County was a far cry from New York.
"What a shock," she said.
The arrival of the Hamouis on July 13, 1979, is significant. They were the first Muslim family to settle in Hernando County.
For two years, they were alone.
Nazir Hamoui recalls that an early patient referred to him by a prominent local doctor initially complained: "I don't want any of those damn Arabs to touch me."
But the man eventually got over his fears.
"People in the United States are open-minded," said Hamoui, now 58. "As long as you provide good service, people will accept you."
As Hamoui's practice became more established, he began spreading the word about this open frontier on Florida's west coast.
The first Muslim to join him was gastroenterologist Husam Shuayb, who was Nada's cousin and someone Nazir had trained with in Detroit.
From there, things began to snowball. As other doctors came, they invited their Muslim friends to follow from Northern hospitals. A few were recruited by hospitals or clinics. But most were drawn through this new pipeline.
Muslim physicians say foreign-born doctors - of any faith - are typically more willing than American-born physicians to set up practices in rural areas.
For one thing, the great need for physicians in rural areas offers young doctors from foreign lands a greater certainty of business success.
For another, Muslim families found Hernando to be family-friendly and seemingly less dangerous than larger metropolitan areas.
"We like small towns," said Ayman Alibrahim, a 41-year-old allergist who came from Syria.
As the number of local Muslim doctors increased, so did the possibilities.
By 1986, a small group of Muslim physicians chipped in to buy land on Barclay Avenue - between Powell Road and State Road 50 between Brooksville and Spring Hill - to build a mosque.
"According to the religion, you establish a community through a mosque," Shuayb said. "We met an obligation of the faith. When you go somewhere, a Muslim should feel deficient until a mosque is built."
By 1991, the desire had grown for a Muslim school that could provide the children a safe environment, challenge them academically and nurture their faith. And they worked together to establish a school in Tampa, where it could also serve a larger Muslim population.
These days, the Muslim community that once could be contained in a small living room needs a banquet hall for its gatherings during Ramadan, where daylight fasting gives way to a feast overflowing with dates, stuffed grape leaves and roasted lamb.
One community, one faith, many nations
The Muslims in Hernando County come from at least 15 nations.
The greatest number are, like Hamoui and Shuayb, from Syria. But there are Egyptians and Tunisians; Iranians and Indians; Filipinos and Malaysians.
Such diversity is a source of community pride. Local Muslims boast that their community is a miniature version of the United Nations.
From the same neighborhood in Cairo came both Elmansoury and his best friend, Allam Reheem.
While Reheem was a local soccer star, Elmansoury played Beatles tunes in a garage band. His greatest claim to fame was a musical impersonation his friends dubbed the "Egyptian Elvis."
Elmansoury, 47, was recruited by a local cardiology clinic. Reheem, 48, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist, gave Orlando and Tampa a try before following Elmansoury to Hernando. Now they share an office suite.
From a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank came Mahmoud Nimer, 47, whose passion for the cause of his people is as strong now as when he left them nearly two decades ago.
Nimer, a cardiologist who found Hernando County through Elmansoury, says Israel unlawfully took his parents' home near Jerusalem when it declared its independence in 1948. And he considers the American government's unquestioning support of Israel to be shameful.
From a region in India ravaged by ethnic violence came Syed Ali, now a doctor of internal medicine with a practice in a Brooksville storefront.
As a medical student, Ali, 37, worked in an emergency room where the mangled bodies from riots between Hindus and Muslims were brought for treatment. He was amazed to see what people could do to each other.
After training in Chicago, Ali sought a warmer climate. He accepted Oak Hill Hospital's offer for a year's worth of financial support to get his practice going.
A small number of Muslims here, like Ali Ben Haloua, have no ties to medicine.
Haloua, a native of Tunisia, worked at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. He came to America and worked in accounting for 27 years in Cleveland. In the early 1970s, he took a vacation through Florida that included a stop at Weeki Wachee Springs.
Haloua, now 56, always remembered the area because of Weeki Wachee. When it came time to retire, he found his way back.
And some, like Rashid Burgess, were made in America.
Burgess, 31, grew up trying a number of churches in the Florida Keys and found none to his liking. Eventually, he found what he was looking for in Islam. As part of his conversion, he gave up his birth name, Lee, to the Muslim name, Rashid.