May 1, 2005 update: The April 30 event celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed did take place, including William W. Baker but minus the mayors. We don't know what happened there, however, the public and the press having been excluded. Outside the hotel, a group carried signs reading, "Hate is Hate. Nazi or Muslim."
When asked why he did not cancel the meeting, Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation's head, Sayed Mohammad Jawad Al-Qazwini, said (in a paraphrase provided by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel) that "he did not know about Baker's controversial past when he invited Baker. He considered canceling but decided against it with the understanding that Baker speak only about religion."
To which, Art Teitelbaum, southern area director of the Anti-Defamation League, replied, "This Assadiq organization is a case study of those who choose not to see. Shame on them for providing a platform for a peddler of anti-Semitism. A skunk who doesn't stink on a given day is still a skunk." And Bill Gralnick, southeast regional director of the American Jewish Committee, added that the Assadiq Foundation's leaders "seem to think they've solved the problem if he doesn't talk about Israeli-Palestinian relations, but they haven't. It's like inviting Hitler to talk about architecture during the Holocaust."
Baker repeated the earlier Muslim guest speakers who emphatically stated that the men who destroyed the World Trade Center on 9-11 were not Muslims. Yet, in a sarcastic tone he condemned Christianity for the Crusades. Declaring a religious dissociation of people from their self-proclaimed religious affiliation is apparently only available to Muslims when they don't live up to their own moral standards. Baker missed the opportunity to argue that the Crusaders weren't really true Christians. Instead, he apologized to the audience on behalf of all Christians for the Crusades.
The whole talk was laced with this imbalanced approach – comparing actual Christian behavior to Islamic ideals.
Other highlights included his praise for Muammar al-Qadhafi and his high praise for the late grand mufti of Syria. He claims to have debated Samuel Huntington in Greece, traveled illegally to Kashmir, and freely practiced Christianity in Saudi Arabia.
Contrary to Al- Qazwini's assertion, Baker clearly did more than "speak only about religion."
MIM: A correspondent writes:
Here is the windup expressed in correspondence between the Boca Marriott manager, Mr. Magor, and me.
Don't look for me to book a room in any Marriott property in the near future.
Mr Magor: Thank you for your reply.
So when I was a kid I wondered, how did Hitler get a forum for his anti-Semitic speeches before he came to power? Now I know. He booked a room at the Marriott.
A Boca Raton Islamic group has decided to keep William W. Baker, a reputed Holocaust denier who was chased out of town last year, as keynote speaker at a birthday banquet for the prophet Mohammed tonight. Imam Mohammad Al-Qazwini, 23, told the Boca Raton News Friday that the Assadiq Foundation decided not to cancel Baker's speech at the Boca Marriott despite objections from the same Jewish leaders who pressured Muslim students to cancel a Baker talk at Florida Atlantic University in April 2004. "Mr. Baker will not be speaking about any political issues. It's strictly a religious gathering," Al-Qazwini said. "We want to create a bridge between the two communities. This is not meant to be disrespectful to the Jewish community." Al-Qazwini said he recently conferred with Baker in California and with local Jewish community leaders over the telephone. But representatives of the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee said the imam's decision to let Baker speak would do little to help Jewish-Muslim relations. "This Assadiq organization is a case study of those who choose not to see," said Art Teitelbaum, ADL southern area director. "Shame on them for providing a platform for a peddler of anti-Semitism. A skunk who doesn't stink on a given day is still a skunk." They pointed to Baker's record as past chairman of the Populist Party and author of the anti-Jewish book "Theft of a Nation." The Populist Party, founded by American neo-Nazi godfather Willis Carto, is best known for nominating Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke for president in 1988. "When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas," said Bill Gralnick, southeast regional director of the American Jewish Committee. "Baker has been lying down with neo-Nazis. We classify him as a Holocaust denier." Gralnick said he was disappointed with the Assadiq Foundation's attitude that Baker could be separated from his record. "They seem to think they've solved the problem if he doesn't talk about Israeli-Palestinian relations, but they haven't," Gralnick said. "It's like inviting Hitler to talk about architecture during the Holocaust." The Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation, headquartered at 831 E. Palmetto Park Road, recently became the third Islamic group to appear in Boca. The other two groups are the Assalam Center and the Islamic Center of Boca Raton. The group got off to a controversial start this month by listing the mayors of Boca Raton and Coral Springs on its Web site as "guests of honor" at the Baker talk. Both mayors eventually protested their inclusion on the invitation, with Boca Mayor Steven Abrams saying he was never contacted about the event. Abrams and Al-Qazwini said Friday they had spoken about the invitation and "ended on a good note." "They can invite anyone to speak whom they want," said Abrams. "It's a free country. As I said before, though, I don't agree with Baker's views at all and I don't want to be connected to him in any way." Al-Qazwini said the Assadiq Foundation did not misuse the mayors' names on purpose. He also said a graphic of dripping blood on the Foundation Web site was meant to represent the historic Mohammad's death, not a modern-day jihad. The Islamic birthday party featuring Baker is scheduled to last from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight. In a statement sent this weekend to local press, the Assadiq Foundation said Baker acknowledged his participation as past chairman of the Populist Party to the imam but denied any sympathy with its neo-Nazi members. "To the best of our understanding, Mr. Baker is a religious man and seems adamant about bringing people together and promoting tolerance and understanding," the letter stated. In addition to Baker, tonight's birthday party will feature Lebanese Ambassador Ali Al-Ajami and Los Angeles comedian Preacher Moss.
Guest speaker triggers criticism; protesters say leader has history of anti-Semitism
By Akilah Johnson Staff Writer Posted May 1 2005
Boca Raton · The controversy surrounding the Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation's religious celebration continued Saturday when a small group protested an event speaker they say has a history of anti-Semitism.
The imam of the Boca Raton-based mosque said he invited William Baker, president and founder of Christians and Muslims for Peace, to the celebration of the prophet Muhammad's birth because of CAMP's message, not Baker's controversial politics.
Imam Sayed Mohammad Jawad Al-Qazwini said. "He will speak about Islam and Christians ... bridging the gap between all communities. He will not be speaking about political issues."
A South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter was not permitted to hear Baker speak. According to CAMP's Web site, its "goal is to promote peace and understanding between Christians and Muslims throughout the world with the hope of preventing future conflicts."
But to those standing on the curb outside the Boca Marriott Hotel Saturday evening, Baker's message is not peaceful.
"If you read what this William Baker said it's not touchy-feely, nice stuff," Boynton Beach resident Joan Baron said amid signs reading, "Hate is Hate. Nazi or Muslim."
Baker has several self-published books that some Jewish leaders say are filled with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric. He also chaired the Populist Party, which nominated former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke for president and was founded by a Holocaust denier.
Al-Qazwini, the mosque's spiritual leader, said he did not know about Baker's controversial past when he invited Baker.
He considered canceling but decided against it with the understanding that Baker speak only about religion.
According to Islamic belief, the Quran, the holy book of Islam, was transmitted through the archangel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad.
When asked about the protesters, Al-Qazwini said: "This is the beauty of America. We can have our program here and they can protest outside."
Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6645.
While saying he wants to build a bridge to people of all faiths, the head of a local Muslim group said Friday he would not cancel a speech by a man local Jewish leaders insist is a longtime anti-Semite.
A check into the background of William Baker revealed no cause for alarm, said Mohammad Jawad Al-Qazwini, imam of the Boca Raton-based Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation.
As a result, Al-Qazwini said, Baker will speak before an estimated 400 Muslims at tonight's celebration of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Mohammed at the Boca Raton Marriott.
In a prepared statement, the foundation said they had talked with Baker about his 1984 chairmanship of the Populist Party, which was founded by a Holocaust denier and in 1988 nominated neo-Nazi and white supremacist David Duke for president.
In a phone conversation, Baker acknowledged that he had been a member of the party, but "indicated that like every other organization, members of the party came with different agendas."
"Mr. Baker further expressed that he refused to be responsible for the viewpoints of the Populist Party," according to the statement.
Baker, founder and president of the California-based Christians and Muslims for Peace, was asked to speak because of his knowledge of the Muslim faith, the statement explained.
"In this day and age of rampant bigotry against Islam, we find Mr. Baker's stance in accurately portraying Muslims as laudable," the foundation wrote.
Local Jewish leaders said they are disappointed the foundation did not cancel the speech.
There are many respected theologians who can talk about the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths, said Bill Gralnick, regional director of the American Jewish Committee.
While Baker has tried to sanitize his background in recent years, Gralnick said there is no escaping his history or his books, which advocate dismantling Israel.
"There's an old saying that when you lie down with dogs you get fleas," Gralnick said. "Mr. Baker, as far as I'm concerned, has fleas jumping out of his whole body."
Like Al-Qazwini, Gralnick said his group wants to build bridges with people of all faiths, including Boca Raton's rapidly-growing Muslim population.
"As a result of their decision about Mr. Baker, I'd say the bridge is a little shaky right now," he said.
Because of the notorious background of Mr. Baker, I and others, both Christians and Jews, protested outside the Marriott Hotel where the "celebration" was taking place.
We pointed out to the media that in 1984 the speaker had been head of the neo-Nazi Populist Party, which was founded by Willis Carto. This party's central purpose was Holocaust denial and to restore Jim Crow segregation laws and repeal the public-accommodations sections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In his 1982 book, Theft of a Nation, Baker stated that, "True justice and real conciliation" requires that the "Zionist state of Israel should be dismantled and eventually eliminated."
Although Mohsin Mahdi, in his Wednesday letter, "Group sought to further dialogue," states that the Assadiq Federation wants to "promote understanding, tolerance and respect for all faiths," the commemoration of Muhammad's birthday by bringing such a speaker to Boca says volumes about this group and its real intentions.