Mosque with Ties to Palestinian Jihad Gets Gun Training
Providing instruction to wannabe jihadists.
CAIR-Florida Regional Operations Director Nezar Hamze’s mosque gun training tour has taken him to numerous Islamic centers throughout Florida. One of the centers is the Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton, a radical mosque with a sinister past of embrace for those associated with Palestinian terror, including support for suicide attackers and their families.
The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR-Florida has, in the recent past, been involved in supporting Palestinian terrorism. In July 2014, CAIR-Florida co-sponsored a pro-Hamas rally in Downtown Miami, where rally goers shouted, “We are Hamas” and “Let’s go Hamas.” After the rally, the event organizer, Sofian Zakkout, wrote, “Thank God, every day we conquer the American Jews like our conquests over the Jews of Israel!”
CAIR-Florida’s national parent organization, CAIR, was created as a part of a terrorist umbrella organization headed by then-global head of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook, and was named by the US Justice Department as a co-conspirator for two federal trials dealing with the financing of millions of dollars to Hamas.
Nezar Hamze is the CEO and Regional Operations Director for CAIR-Florida. Ironically, he is also a Deputy in the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO). Over the past month or so, Hamze has used his position as a Deputy Sheriff to go into radical mosques throughout the state and teach the congregations how to use guns properly and how to obtain government grants for security systems (to protect from law enforcement conducting surveillance).
One of the mosques Hamze has given training to is Masjid Jamaat Al-Mumineen (MJAM), located in Margate, Florida. That mosque’s imam – who attended Hamze’s class – Izhar Khan, had previously been arrested, according to the indictment against him, for “collecting and delivering money for the Pakistani Taliban.”
Another of the mosques receiving the training, the Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton (ISSB), has also had a terror-related history and its own imam with involvement in a terrorist organization. And like CAIR, it has been Palestinian terrorism and worse.
According to the ISSB newsletter The Faith, in May 2001, the mosque’s children’s school, Dar al-Iman, was visited by then-professor at the University of South Florida (USF), Sami al-Arian, to discuss with the school’s parents “the opportunity for [their] children to attend a fulltime Islamic school in Tampa.” The school is presumably the Islamic Academy of Florida (IAF), an institution founded by al-Arian in 1992 and which is still in existence under a new name.
At the time of his visit, Al-Arian was also the North American leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). In April 2006, al-Arian pled guilty to conspiracy to provide services to PIJ. Between 1986 and 1992, al-Arian helped found a charity, a think tank, and the IAF school, all of which, according to the indictment against him, were actively used “to raise funds and provide support for the PIJ and their operatives in the Middle East, in order to assist its engagement in, and promotion of, violent attacks…”
As well, according to The Faith, from the beginning of 2000 through the end of 2001, Friday prayers at ISSB were led by al-Arian colleagues Mazen al-Najjar and Hussam Jubara on at least eight separate occasions each.
According to the US Justice Department, Al-Najjar, the brother-in-law of al-Arian, “had established ties to terrorist organizations and held leadership positions” within groups that raised funds for PIJ and Hamas. Those groups included al-Arian’s founded charity, Islamic Concern Project (ICP), and al-Arian’s founded think tank, World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). Following his imprisonment, in August 2002, al-Najjar was deported from the US.
Jubara, then-professor at the University of Central Florida (UCF), co-founded the Islamic Concern Project (originally Islamic Committee for Palestine) with al-Arian. Jubara was arrested in March 2003 and charged and convicted of felony immigration fraud. Later, he too would be deported.
In January 2001, under the banner of ‘Aqsa Victims,’ The Faith announced that the mosque’s “community members” had raised $4000 to be sent to the family of Palestinian “martyrs.” The newsletter read, “The second payment of donations for Aqsa victims were sent the martyrs families and needy in the West Bank in Palestine.” With regard to Palestinians, the term ‘martyrs’ denotes either terrorists (general) or suicide bombers (specific).
In January 2002, a decision was made by ISSB to hire as its full-time imam Muneer Arafat and have Arafat relocate from New York, where he had a residence at the time. In 2001, Arafat had already been leading mosque prayers and teaching Islamic classes to the mosque congregation.
Prior to New York, Arafat had been living in St. Louis, Missouri. It was there that he first met up with Sami al-Arian, at an ICP conference in 1988. Arafat, a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was there to deliver a message from his spiritual guide, PIJ leader Assad Bayyoud Tamimi, who was unable to attend the conference. In June 2005, while giving courtroom testimony about al-Arian, Arafat stated that he is in favor of PIJ’s “goal of destroying Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state.”
While residing in Saint Louis, Arafat also came into contact with al-Qaeda and Hamas operative Ziyad Khaleel. The two became roommates.
In May 1998, at the behest of a senior al-Qaeda lieutenant, Khaleel delivered a satellite phone and battery pack he had purchased to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, which was later used to plan the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. As well, Khaleel was a webmaster for the official website of Hamas and lectured at the University of Missouri on behalf of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a now-defunct Hamas propaganda group co-founded by al-Arian and Hamas global leader Mousa Abu Marzook.
Shortly after his May 2003 arrest by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Arafat was hired as the imam of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR), a radical mosque with a number of terrorist associations. Arafat’s predecessor, Ibrahim Dremali, an extremist in his own right, was placed on the federal “no-fly” list and too would later be arrested.
During Arafat’s term as imam, one of the directors of the mosque was ICBR co-founder Bassem Alhalabi. Alhalabi was a research assistant for al-Arian at USF and was charged, in June 2003, with the illegal export of a $13,000 military thermal imaging device to Syria. Also, while Arafat was imam, ICBR member Rafiq Sabir was arrested and charged with conspiring to provide material support to Al-Qaeda. Sabir received a 25-year prison sentence.
Not surprisingly, CAIR-Florida has previously trained ICBR on how to avoid being questioned by the FBI.
For Nezar Hamze and CAIR to be involved in training radical mosques on how to use guns and how to bilk money from the government for purposes of “security,” no doubt, constitutes a clear and present danger to the residents of Florida and beyond.
Easily, one or more of the individuals sitting in on this training could be the next San Bernardino shooter(s) or the next Times Square bomber(s). Placing this knowledge into the wrong hands, as Hamze has done with Muslim extremists, is essentially providing instruction to wannabe jihadists.
If you are concerned about the CAIR-Florida gun training and wish to voice your opinion, you can contact the Miami FBI office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 754-703-2000. Please be respectful in any and all communications with this office.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.