Islamic Center of Boca Raton member's arrest shows FL is 'preferred locale for terrorists' - CAIR lawyer for Rafiq Sabir
CAIR lawyer to defend Sabir
"...Sabir's neighbors at the Villa San Remo gated community west of Boca Raton expressed shock at Sabir's weekend arrest. "Everyone is a little concerned," said Alicia Figueroa. "It's unbelievable what (the federal government) is charging him with. We wish it wasn't here and that the charges aren't true."
MIM: The denial of Rafiq Sabir's neighbors that a terrorist might have been living among them is truly astounding in light of the fact that one of the 9/11 hijackers was living in Vero Beach with his wife and children, Just before 9/11 the Alomari's threw a 'farewell' party for their neighbors before he sent his family back to Saudi Arabia. A week later Alomari crashed into the World Trade Center with Mohamed Atta.At the party for their neighbors, Alomari's wife served Happy Meals and told the guests that the family wanted to leave behind good memories.
Eccerpt from: You never imagine: The hijackers next door
by Joel Achenbach
"...The conspirators apparently did their plotting face to face, in meetings late at night at rented homes. Some of the people associated with the group may still be at large. Authorities are looking for Amer Kamfar, who lived in Vero Beach with his wife and four children. He has an FAA license, with extensive qualifications as a pilot, flight engineer and mechanic. Neighbor Hank Habora said about two or three weeks ago Kamfar left Vero Beach in a hurry.
"They took all their stuff and put it out by the trash: clothes, furniture, pots and pans," he said.
There was one pronounced link between the conspirators and the rest of American society: Their children. They did not have to participate in the jihad. In Vero Beach, Lisa Dubose's 6-year-old son was best buddies with the son of a man named Abdulaziz Alomari -- who later boarded American Airlines Flight 11 with Atta.
The adult Alomaris didn't socialize much. A wave now and again. They spent time with another Muslim family -- clannish behavior that the American neighbors assumed was normal. Theirs was a nice home, rented for $1,400 a month.
The only problem with the Alomaris were the late-night meetings. Next-door neighbor Betty Egger said that as many as a dozen cars would be parked outside, some on her own lawn. It rattled her to see car headlights flashing through her windows at 2 in the morning.
Alomari told his landlord in August that the family would soon be moving back home, to Saudi Arabia. Then, just before Labor Day, something unusual happened: The Alomaris threw a party for all the neighborhood children. "They invited all the kids, even ones they'd never seen before," said neighbor Andrew Krease.
They served pizza and Happy Meals. Where they come from, Alomari's wife told the neighbors, it is customary to throw a party before moving -- to leave nice memories..."
BOCA RATON SUSPECT
Doctor accused as terrorist goes to court in Fort Pierce
The arrest of a Palm Beach County doctor on charges that he agreed to support al Qaeda has raised some fears that South Florida continues to be a preferred locale for people with terrorist links.
Fourteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks had lived and trained in South Florida as they plotted the strikes.
In the latest case of suspected terrorists, the government alleges that Dr. Rafiq Sabir, 50, of Boca Raton, and a New York associate, Tarik Shah, 42, vowed their allegiance to al Qaeda last month. Federal prosecutors claim the pair agreed to use their skills in medicine and martial arts to treat and train terrorists.
Sabir is scheduled for a status hearing this morning in federal court in Fort Pierce with an attorney his family retained Thursday. The Islamic Center in Boca Raton, where Sabir is a member, is helping to pay for his legal counsel, said Daniel McBride, Sabir's friend and the center's spokesman.
COMMUNITY SPEAKS OUT
The connection between Sabir and the Islamic center is of concern to members of the American Jewish Committee.
"If the government is correct [about Sabir], this is not just a little snag," said Bill Gralnick, the committee's southeast regional director. "It's someone giving aid and comfort to the enemy, to people who are trying to kill us."
But McBride described Sabir as "a good Muslim" with no connection to al Qaeda. He said the charge against Sabir is "absurd" and that he wouldn't wish harm on anyone.
"Dr. Sabir doesn't have ill will toward anyone," McBride said.
Gralnick and leaders of five other Jewish organizations criticized the Islamic center in 2001 when its website linked to an anti-Semitic article that described Jews as "usurpers and aggressors" who are "known for their treachery and corruption."
The mosque removed the article from its site and issued a statement repudiating the article's content. The mosque's spiritual leader also met with Gralnick and others to resolve the situation.
Gralnick said he has moved past the website controversy, but he is worried about the notion that South Florida may still be home to people with ties to terrorism.
The case evokes two conflicting American phrases, Gralnick said.
"The first is that you're innocent until proven guilty, and Dr. Sabir certainly has got to have the full protection of the law," Gralnick said. "The other one is: Where there's smoke, there's fire."
McBride confirmed that Sabir will have an attorney at today's hearing, but he did not know who the lawyer is. Sabir also is scheduled to be in court Monday for a pretrial detention hearing and to determine if he will be tried in New York.
Neighbors in Sabir's Villa San Remo community in west Boca Raton said they didn't know much about the doctor, his Jamaican-born wife or their children. Some neighbors did notice the FBI agents that staked out Sabir's home in the weeks before his arrest.
On Thursday, Villa San Remo resident Hugh Albright said he is not talking with other neighbors, or the media.
"We're waiting for the guy to have a fair trial before jumping to any conclusions," Albright said.
Employees at Glades General Hospital in Belle Glade, where Sabir worked in the emergency room between August 2003 and January 2004, also would not talk about the case, referring a reporter to a two-sentence statement issued by hospital officials that confirmed Sabir worked in the ER between those dates.
-----------------By John Coté
June 3, 2005, http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-63sabir,0,6858522.story?coll=sfla-news-palm
The West Boca emergency room doctor accused of conspiring to assist al-Qaida has retained a former Miami public defender and Muslim civil rights activist to represent him, according to information from the U.S. Attorney's Office on Friday.
Rafiq Abdus Sabir has retained Khurrum Basir Wahid as his attorney, said Megan Gaffney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York. Wahid could not be reached by phone at his Lighthouse Point office.
Wahid was the civil rights director for the Florida chapter of the Council on American Islamic-Relations and served as a consulting attorney for the civil liberties group at least as recent as 2003.
Wahid has been an vocal advocate for due process in cases involving terrorism-related charges.
"I'm not saying let everybody out," Wahid said in 2002 on the case of Adham Hassoun, a computer programmer from Sunrise then being held in secretative detention. "I'm just saying bring it to a hearing. Let a jury decide the facts. Guilt or innocence is not for the government to decide. It's for a jury to decide."
Sabir is scheduled to appear in federal court in Fort Pierce on Monday for a hearing to determine if he is the person named in the complaint out of a New York federal court and if there is probable cause he committed the conspiracy charge alleged. If so, Sabir will be transferred to New York for trial. The hearing is also slated to address whether Sabir should be detained pending trial. A spokeswoman at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said late Thursday that the Monday hearing may be delayed.
Sabir, 50, and and his life-long friend Tarik Ibn Osman Shah, 42, a New York jazz musician, were ordered held without bail on Tuesday in separate federal courts on charges they pledged and plotted to assist the al-Qaida terrorist organization.
Sabir was somber as he was led into federal court in Fort Pierce in handcuffs, ankle shackles and navy blue jail garb, looking downward and closing his eyes as he waited to appear before U.S. Magistrate James M. Hopkins. At that time Sabir told the judge he was trying to retain an attorney.
"I'm worried about the brother," Daniel McBride, a friend of Sabir's and a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, said outside of court on Tuesday. "This anti-American stuff that they've accused him of, it's absurd."
McBride was one of two supporters who appeared at Sabir's hearing on a charge he conspired to provide material support to al-Qaida, the terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden.
The scene contrasted with the one at federal court in Manhattan during the appearance of Sabir's alleged accomplice, Shah.
Shah, wearing a blue T-shirt and khakis, appeared relaxed during his appearance before U.S. Magistrate Theodore Katz. Handcuffed during the proceeding, Shah at one point turned and smiled at his wife, Zakkiyyah, and a group of about a dozen other supporters in the courtroom.
As part of a "package" deal, Shah, a self-described martial-arts expert, agreed to provide hand-to-hand combat training to al-Qaida members, while Sabir plotted to treat "wounded jihadists" in Saudi Arabia, prosecutors contend in the complaint filed in federal court in New York.
Sabir and Shah both swore allegiance to bin Laden during an audiotaped meeting May 20, according to prosecutors.
"It's a sting operation," Anthony Ricco, a lawyer for Shah, said outside court, noting the investigation had been going on for two years. "It makes me wonder if somebody was a threat to our national security, why did it take two years?"
MIM: Arthur Teitelbaum of the The Anti Defamation League , and Bill Gralnick of the American Jewish Committee, have not only failed to take on radical Islamists in South Florida, they have made inane statements the media on the terrorism situation underplaying the threat. For the ADL the Christian right more of a threat to Jews then Islamist terrorism. Unfortunately for those in need of facts, they have set themselves up as the 'go to guys' for the press, and are all too ready to pontificate as self styled representatives of the Jewish community,issuing non committal uninformed statements.
The statement made by Art Teitelbaum of the ADL is typical of his organisation's politically correct stance where he mentions the possibility of terrorism at the Boca mosque, while decrying the fact that Arabs are implicated in terrorism.
For his part, Bill Gralnick, the president of the AJC, showed his formidable powers of analysis by announcing to the media that:" Where there's smoke there's fire, members of the community definitely think there is something going on here..."
Gralnick's insighful comments in the article above bring to mind his remarks after an infamous post 9/11 breakfast at the Dremali residence, together with ICBR spokesman Hassan Shareef and reform Jewish 'cleric' Sam Silver, who together with his son Barry,'s most recent interfaith activities involved a forum at FAU with ICBR spokesman Daniel McBride whose was denounced as being anti semitic by Teitelbaum of the ADL. After the meal, Gralnick expressed surprise at Dremali's announcement that that he did not like Israeli Jews, and astutely opined to the press, that "he might be an antisemite". http://www.newtimesbpb.com/issues/2001-10-25/news/news_print.html
Which begs the question as to why it took an arrest of a member of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton before Teitelbaum's ADL and Gralnick's AJC finally stated that 'something was going on' at the ICBR hastening to add that 'Arabs shouldn't be blamed', when articles detailing the terrorism ties of the mosque had been prominently featured in the media for years.
by By Sean Salai http://www.bocaratonnews.com/index.php?src=news&category=Local%20News&prid=11750
Views of Boca suspect clash with charges
By Jennifer Peltz, Tal Abbady and Peter Franceschina
What Boca Raton's Jews and Muslims have here is a failure to communicate
Imam Ibrahim Dremali finished evening prayers on September 26 at Boca Raton's Islamic Center in front of a sparse congregation. The mosque, which he had helped establish three years ago, would normally have been packed with worshipers, but the events of September 11 and the subsequent backlash against Muslims in the United States, however sporadic, had thinned the crowd. As he walked out the double doors, he passed two security guards, hired as the result of threatening phone calls he and his flock had received.
As if that weren't enough, the 40-year-old Palestinian-American had spent the day fielding angry complaints from Jewish leaders demanding that the center remove a link from its Web page that teemed with anti-Semitic rhetoric. Dremali didn't know how it got there; he hadn't even seen it yet. He would take it off, he assured them. But around 9 p.m., all he wanted to do was go home, maybe play with his boys, ages eight and ten, and talk with his wife.
Still, he fretted about the link as he walked to his Toyota Camry parked near the mosque. He thought about it on the short drive home.
"I had so much on my mind that, when I saw someone behind me, flashing me with their high beams, I ignored it," he recalls. "I arrived home, stepped out of my car, and I was pushed back into the car. This guy was pushing a big gun into my chest."
A clean-shaven white man wearing a T-shirt and jeans shoved the butt of his gun into Dremali's chest again. "If I see you in church tomorrow," he warned, "you're dead meat."
Another man, similarly dressed, stood at the foot of Dremali's car and pointed a handgun at him. Calmly the assailants climbed back into their white Chevrolet truck and drove away, two American flags flapping on the tailgate.
"I was completely shocked," says Dremali, a Sunni Muslim and karate student with a third-degree black belt. "Obviously they'd followed me from the mosque to my house. I couldn't speak. I felt helpless." He remembers fearing that his boys would rush outside to greet him, as they often did. "My God, what if they would have come outside? I saw death in front of my eyes."
The September 26 assault is still under investigation by Boca Raton police. Distracted by the menacing of their prayer leader, officials of the center didn't think to remove the Web link for four days. Though Dremali has since apologized for the link, the mistrust and ill will between Boca Raton's Jewish and Muslim communities -- which apparently fueled both the hate crime against Dremali and the hate speech that appeared on the center's site -- shows little sign of abating.
The delay in removing the offending link irked local Jewish leaders, particularly William Gralnick, the South Florida regional director of the New York City-based American Jewish Committee, one of the nation's largest Jewish organizations. Gralnick now insists that, if Muslims wish to engage in any sort of official dialogue with Jews, Muslims must initiate the talks and then undergo "background checks" for terrorist ties by the American Jewish Council. Gralnick's position is supported by the Boca Raton chapter of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The hard-line position seems odd for a man like Gralnick, who has built a career on interfaith relations. Praised by long-time Boca rabbi Samuel Silver for having "a very light touch" and being "an extraordinarily skilled negotiator," the 56-year-old New York native was given an honorary doctorate from Florida Atlantic University in 1999.
On this issue, though, Gralnick is digging in his heels. "I don't think there was an appreciation for how offensive the material on the site was," Gralnick explains while stabbing a caesar salad at famous Jewish deli Wolfie's in Boca Raton. The link, finally removed from the center's home page the first week of October, was penned by someone identified only as "Sheikh." In answering a Web-posted question, "Why can't Jews and Muslims live in peace?" on a Website separate from the Islamic Center, "Sheikh" calls Jews "treacherous... usurpers and aggressors" and describes stories of Muslims murdering Jews.
"Outrageous, unbelievable, and hateful stuff that went on at length," Gralnick fumes about the posting.
"The words on the link were really terrible," Dremali agrees. "We did not know the guy who put it on our site. I didn't know it was there. I believe in working with the Jewish people, especially right now."
At the request of Gralnick and prominent rabbi Merle Singer of Boca's largest synagogue, Temple Beth El, Dremali posted an Internet apology and issued a press release denouncing the link. Neither gesture seemed enough for Gralnick or Singer, both of whom met over breakfast falafels at the imam's home October 3. The leaders emerged from the two-hour-long discussion with nothing more than full bellies and ruffled feathers.
"I wouldn't say we made great progress," says Hassan Shareef, a center spokesperson. Shareef, who attended the breakfast, says fireworks flew when the imam told Singer and Gralnick that, "Muslims don't like Jews in Israel but don't have the same kind of animosity toward Jews in America."
"It was uncomfortable," Shareef recalls. "Mr. Gralnick explained to us that Jewish people do not differentiate between those in Israel and those in the United States. We understand that it offends Jewish people for us to separate Israel and America in this nationalistic sense. That is what we have come to understand. But they have to understand certain aspects of our faith."
Singer describes the meeting as "typically Middle Eastern": "It was calm, pleasant, formal," he says. "You know, like they always like to do."
Gralnick, however, dismisses the meeting as "public relations," saying that the best action right now is no action. "I don't know what good it would do anybody just to get us in a room together. That might even be dangerous," he asserts. "We considered the material [on the Website] blasphemous. The imam was very open about the fact that, if something was quoted from the Koran, that was just the way it is."
"No public dialogue is really in order until we get beyond the present mood," Singer says. And the rabbi doesn't anticipate pressure from members of Temple Beth El to move forward with communication. No one has requested that so far, but if someone does, Singer says, he would probably invite Muslim leaders to Temple Beth El without playing detective first.
Gralnick, however, says he's more resolute than ever about putting any Muslim through a series of checks. Although he would not detail how that information would be compiled, Gralnick says the American Jewish Committee "starts with the state department's lists of terrorist organizations. We assume that any individual that appears in the press and at rallies and who's on that list is going to be in our files. We have files on people who we think may do us harm: the Klan, the John Birch Society. I don't apologize for that."
Dremali is offended by the idea of being investigated. "There's already so much misunderstanding between us that that seems to make things much worse, the assumption that we are already suspects," he says. "I'm afraid any little mistake Muslims may have made in their lives will be known, exploited, used by a small group of people to their advantage. [Gralnick] told me that several million Muslims are already questionable to him. What gives them that authority?"
Although Jewish leaders support Gralnick's belief that the two groups should continue to refrain from open dialogue, they are distancing themselves from the term background checks.
Boca's chapter of the Anti-Defamation League aims to protect the rights of South Florida's 580,000 Jews, 64,500 of whom live in Boca Raton; the majority of Jews throughout the region attend conservative synagogues. The organization also serves South Florida's 70,000 Muslims, who first began migrating to the area in significant numbers 15 years ago. It's unclear how many Muslims live in Boca, but approximately 15 mosques and 10 houses of prayer have sprung up in southern Palm Beach County since the mid-1980s.
ADL director Bill Rothchild and associate director Ilene Goodman split hairs on the topic of Muslim and Jewish forums. They say they would recommend the groups "proceed with caution" and perform background checks not on Muslim organizations but on individual Muslims.
Not everyone with the league is quick to impose conditions on talks between Jews and Muslims. Art Teitelbaum, the organization's Southern Area director, says that, though Muslims have lived in South Florida for decades, only in the past few years have followers of Islam increased their civic and social presences here. "Now we have an extraordinary situation created by events here and in the Middle East," says Teitelbaum, who has led thousands of interfaith forums. "I can't think of a better time to talk than right now."
A voice from the Muslim community agrees. Dr. Zulfiqar Shah, the director of Fort Lauderdale's Islamic Studies Center and former University of Florida scholar on Judaism and Islam, says restricting communication between Jews and Muslims is "damaging, foolish, and dangerous."
"We need to unify our religions, not try to discard each other's credibility," effuses Shah. "This is not the time for picking apart issues mired in the Middle East. We must refocus as a nation and face terror like a nation. Dialogue is the best thing for everyone. These men call themselves faith leaders; they should act that way."
Dremali says he'd like to organize a forum for Jews and Muslims. "I feel that it's something we must do. Continuing with this level of conflict right here in our town is not healthy," he says. "That is not why I came to this country, to feel divided from another group. There is all this talk about feeling united right now. Well, where is that in Boca?"