"We can help avoid situations like we have here with the imams," he says. "This is the Muslim community dealing with issues that we need to deal with."

Growing up in South Florida, 35-year-old Hamze developed a remarkable tolerance for bigotry. When he worked as a manager for a company that sells cars, his coworkers didn't realize he was Muslim. They saw his clean-shaven face and fair skin and assumed it was fine to badmouth the religion in front of him. He says he listened quietly and used the opportunity to talk about diversity with his staff. But when he told them he was Muslim, he remembers with a laugh, they looked "like they just saw a ghost."

Since becoming head of CAIR in 2009, Hamze has received more than his share of vitriol from anti-Islam politicians. At a town hall meeting in 2010, he stood up to question U.S. Rep. Allen West, the congressman from Plantation who has called Islam "a  totalitarian, theocratic, political ideology." That night, West added salt to the wound with a reference to 9/11. "The people that flew those planes into buildings were shouting 'Allahu Akbar,' " or God is great, he said. 

Attorney Khurrum Wahid calls terrorism cases the civil rights battles of his generation.
George Martinez
Attorney Khurrum Wahid calls terrorism cases the civil rights battles of his generation.
Nauman Abbasi runs a nonprofit group dedicated to getting Muslims more involved in politics.
George Martinez
Nauman Abbasi runs a nonprofit group dedicated to getting Muslims more involved in politics.

Hamze tried to argue with him. "You've attacked Islam — " he began.

But West shouted him down. "You attacked us!" he said, and the crowd of West supporters cheered.

"It hurts," Hamze says now. "I can't describe the feeling of having 300 to 400 people yelling and screaming at you."

Last fall, Hamze again tried to reason with his opponents. He applied to join the Broward Republican Executive Committee, noting that he agrees with many GOP values. But roughly 200 people packed a committee meeting to make sure he was not voted onto the board. They shouted "terrorist" and "you're in al Qaeda."

Joe Kaufman, head of the anti-Islam group Americans Against Hate, led the charge against Hamze. "They humiliated me in front of everybody," Hamze says. "They made a mockery of themselves." Yet he prided himself on remaining stone-faced. "I just keep it inside and know that I have to have patience."

In Islam, one of the paths to salvation is to "keep your mouth closed," he says.

It's a teaching many locals seem to take to heart. Leaders of the Margate mosque have remained largely quiet, except for a statement released the day Izhar Khan was arrested. "We would like everyone to know that there are no charges against Masjid Jamaat Al Mu'mineen for any wrongdoing, and we are cooperating with all the authorities involved in the case," he said. "We would like everyone to know that Masjid Jamaat Al Mu'mineen does not support terrorism, for this is forbidden in Islam. The Qur'an clearly tells us, 'Do Not Spread Corruption on Earth.' "

Calls to the mosque seeking comment for this article were not returned.

At a January hearing for the Khan case, supporters of the imams filled two back rows of the Miami courtroom. They sat quietly through the legal arguments over how much evidence would be released to the defense team.

Afterward, when a reporter approached to ask their response, one of the men shook his head gently and directed her back to the lawyers. There would be no loose tongues today.


In private, local Muslims admit they have an issue with P.R. In a modest white office building a few miles from the Margate mosque, a group of activists is tackling the problem from another angle — starting with kids.

This is the law office of Khurrum Wahid, Hafiz Khan's attorney. It's also home to Emerge USA, a nonprofit group Wahid founded in 2006. Emerge aims to empower Muslim, Indian, Pakistani, and Arab-American people through voter registration, political polling, and a leadership training program for young adults. By getting more of Florida's 120,000 registered Muslim voters involved in politics, Wahid hopes participants will stop being alienated and vilified. "Public perception drives public policy," he says.

Wahid is a former public defender with a friendly face and a relaxed, scruffy goatee — the look of a working dad who can't be bothered with pretense. He sits at the wide conference table in his office with his shirtsleeves rolled up, leaning forward. He points out a framed document on the wall marked "Secret" from the days before he was cleared to read classified government documents.

Born in Pakistan and raised in Canada, Wahid is now thoroughly American. He roots for the Dallas Cowboys and hosts political fundraisers through the political action committee he founded, CVA-PAC. Wahid remembers, as a kid in the early '70s, getting beat up a lot. Other children taunted him with "Paki go home." Things improved by high school. After the initial shock at an influx of multicultural immigrants, Canadians began to accept them as part of the landscape. The taunting stopped, and Wahid grew more confident. Back then, he says, Muslims were seen as computer geeks, not terrorists.

Wahid was working as a public defender in Miami when the World Trade Center fell. He began representing immigrants detained for questioning in the wake of the terrorist attacks. When he opened a private practice in 2004, he started taking cases other lawyers might shun. He defended the man who was convicted of plotting to bomb the Herald Square subway station in 2004 and Boca Raton doctor Rafiq Sabir, who was convicted of conspiring to treat wounded al Qaeda militants. He also recently represented Rais Bhuiyan, a convenience-store clerk in Texas who tried to prevent the execution of the man who shot him in the face after 9/11.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
9 comments
Sid
Sid

"Nauman Abbasi runs a nonprofit group dedicated to getting Muslims more involved in politics."There in a nutshell is your proverbial "Kiss of Death"

FQS9000
FQS9000

Any Muslim who will let his daughter or sister marry a Christian or who doesn't hate a Muslim who converts to another religion is welcome in my neighborhood, life and home.

The rest need deportation, as they are killers beneath their oily smiles.  

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

Its sad really.  People just trying to live their lives, but cant thanks to right wing propaganda.  They have been made into the monsters under the bed thanks to all the paranoia.  Not all Muslims are terrorists, much like not all christians are.  Yes, there are bad people of both religions who do evil things, but they are a small percentage of the whole.  People like the criminal Alan West only make things worse.  You would think that they would get the idea into their heads that maybe, just maybe, if you stopped killing and trying to really tick them off, maybe even that small percentage of terrorists  would start to fall off.  Yet, there are still atrocities committed against them.  Any wonder why they REALLY dont like us?  Here is a thought..think of everything we do to Muslims, then turn it around.  How would YOU feel if all this happened to YOU?People need to just grow up.

Guest
Guest

The author fails to mention that the men ALSO stay silent in THEIR prayer room. They ALSO sit with their eyes downcast, and they would ALSO register no reaction to the speaker's comments.

During the Friday sermon, nobody speaks. I can already hear the outraged commenters using the author's oversight as a polemical weapon.

Beware of c.a.i.r....
Beware of c.a.i.r....

Yeah Pete, it is really sad that there are so many dhimmies(look it up) like yourself who are brainwashed by terrorist related(hamas) organizations such as c.a.i.r. into thinking that all muslims are discriminated against, etc. If you look up the F.B.I. hate crime statistics for the last 5 years, you will see 5 times as many hate related crimes against Jews vs. muslims. There is no such thing as islamaphobia, it is a word made up by the muslims from c.a.i.r. to stoke their propaganda and lies in order to deceive dhimmies like yourself into thinking that the poor muslims are picked on. Have you ever noticed that any time a mosque in the U.S. is "vandalized," it is ALWAYS very superficial to the structure(very little damage) and the "criminals" are never caught...? That's because the muslims do the damage themselves to gain sympathy from the dim witted American sheeple!!You know nothing about what the koran says and the world wide caliphate of islam, do yourself a favor and study it, your life may depend upon it in the near future...

Sboyce4
Sboyce4

 Yeah Beware of c.a.i.r.....you know nothing about what the bible says, or the torah or the koran or any other holy book....all you know is the hatred in your heart -- what would Jesus do?

Lvedve
Lvedve

@ Beware of CAIR you are an idiot I'm an American born Muslim and there is no grand Islamic plan to take over this country or the world all we want is to be left alone to worship in peace but clowns like you,Kaufman,Allen West,and the rest of the know nothings want to spread lies,hate,and ignorance

Beware of c.a.i.r....
Beware of c.a.i.r....

Jesus will save me, what will your koran do for you...? There's no hate in my heart, don't have time for it, I'm a realist in the here and now. The muslim's sharia law is the biggest threat to the U.S. Constitution, there is no place for it whatsoever in our system of law. The problem with muslims is that they do not assimilate into Western society and they never will, their sharia forbids it. One of the co-founders of c.a.i.r., Omar Ahmad, has publicly stated that, "islam isn't in America to be equal to ANY other faiths, but to become dominant. The koran, the muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and islam the ONLY accepted religion on Earth."If you're not muslim and you don't get angry after reading that garbage from Omar, then you're not American... c.a.i.r. is DANGEROUS, they are a clear and present danger to the American way of life, they have to be stopped...!!!

 
Loading...