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Tampa City Council Member Bill Carlson Speaks At Iftar Attended By CAIR/Hamas And PIJ Operatives

Radical Ramadan 'Tampa Muslims And Friends Iftar' Highlights City's Continuing Role As Terror Hub
April 11, 2023

CAIR Radical Ramadan Reunion in Tampa

Former and current leaders from the Hamas-related group celebrate the holidays together.

April 7, 2023 by Joe Kaufman

Tampa Bay, Florida has long been a hotbed of radical Muslim activity, and Ramadan is a big draw for the resident extremists and their organizations. On March 31st, a Ramadan iftar (evening break-the-fast meal), held at Tampa's Petra Middle Eastern Restaurant, brought together some of the city's most extreme elements, including former and current leaders from the Hamas-linked CAIR and worse. A city council member also participated. The public display of comradery by terror-related Islamists and local officials is both ominous and indicative of the influence Muslim fanatics have in Tampa, and the dangers posed by this must not be ignored.

CAIR or the Council on American-Islamic Relations has its foundation in the terrorist group Hamas. It was established, in June 1994, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee, the US chapter of which was headed by then-global head of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook. Seed money for CAIR came from fellow Palestine Committee outfit, the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), a charity that would later be shut down by the US government for Hamas fundraising. During HLF's federal trials, in 2007 and 2008, CAIR would be named a party to the crime by the US Justice Department.

The CAIR figures attending last month's iftar dinner, titled 'Tampa Muslims and Friends Iftar,' are related to CAIR's Florida chapter. When it comes to terrorism, CAIR-Florida very much emulates its parent organization. A prime example of this was CAIR-Florida's sponsorship of a pro-Hamas rally that took place in downtown Miami, in July 2014. Rally goers repeatedly chanted "We are Hamas," "Let's go Hamas," and "Hamas kicked your ass."

The iftar attendees included: former CAIR-Florida Executive Director Hassan Shibly; current CAIR-Florida Executive Director Abdullah Jaber; former CAIR-Florida Communications Director and founder of the CAIR-Florida headquarters in Tampa, Ahmed Bedier; and current CAIR-Florida Policy Manager Hiba Rahim.

For close to a decade, Hassan Shibly has held a leadership position within CAIR-Florida. In 2021, he resigned his job, after his then-wife went public with claims that he emotionally and physically abused her. For years, Shibly's name was found on the federal 'terrorism watch list.' He has defended Hezbollah as "basically a resistance movement." He has called for female al-Qaeda operative Aafia Siddiqui to be freed from prison. He continues to attempt to get ISIS bride Hoda Muthana, who threatened President Obama's life, to be let into the US. In 2021, he posted a viciously anti-Semitic video on Instagram, telling Israeli Jews to "go back to Europe."

Subsequent to the Shibly scandal, Abdullah Jaber, who spoke at the iftar, took over as CAIR-Florida Executive Director. Prior to that, he had been Executive Director of CAIR-Georgia. Shortly following his hire, Jaber spoke at a May 2021 Tampa anti-Israel rally, which took place two days after Israel and Hamas, who had been fighting, agreed to a ceasefire. Much of the world wanted to see a ceasefire to end the death and destruction that was taking place on both sides. Yet, that did not hinder Jaber, who emphatically and callously led the crowd in the chant, "We don't want a ceasefire."

Ahmed Bedier's tenure with CAIR coincided with the trial of Sami al-Arian, a USF professor who created a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) network within the Tampa area. Bedier was al-Arian's unofficial spokesman in the media. In December 2005, during a TV interview, when asked if he believed al-Arian's involvement with PIJ was immoral, Bedier infamously stated, "To a certain degree. Now, before 1995, there was nothing immoral about it." Bedier's younger brother Amir, who was a big fan of Osama bin Laden, was shot and killed by Egyptian police. Before his death, Bedier labeled him a "hero." Bedier, like Shibly, has been accused of sexual harassment.

In addition to CAIR operatives, the iftar attendees included a convicted member of PIJ and Sami al-Arian co-conspirator, Hatem Fariz. According to the indictment against the two, Fariz "was a PIJ member" and did "conspire… to commit offenses against the United States… by making and receiving contributions of funds, goods, and services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad." Among other things, the indictment discusses how Fariz laughed and made light of a June 2002 PIJ suicide bombing that had just taken place in northern Israel, which ended the lives of 17 people and which his PIJ colleague described to him as being "successful."

Another speaker at the iftar was Tampa City Council Member Bill Carlson. A photo of Carlson smiling and posing alongside alleged wife beater Hassan Shibly and convicted PIJ member Hatem Fariz was posted by Fariz on his Facebook page. This is the kind of image that could easily be used by future political opponents of Carlson – and justifiably so – to question his ethics and intent.

Those involved with terror-related groups such as CAIR and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are threats to our society. The fact that these entities and their representatives openly operate within our nation's borders speaks volumes about how lightly officials within our government take the issue of terrorism. Indeed, in the case of this event, a government official was publicly participating and, by doing so, tacitly endorsing and legitimizing our enemy's agenda. Council Member Carlson should be called out for his bad judgement and issue an apology.

It is high time that America's elected representatives exercise caution and due diligence when engaging with Islamist groups and their leaders. Failure to do so jeopardizes both national security and has life and death consequences far beyond American shores.

Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.

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