Today, Abdelaziz bears no resemblance to the subdued, cloaked stereotype of Muslim women. Hollywood starlets would kill for her confidence, along with her long, unveiled dark hair and daring grin. She has worked for Sen. Bill Nelson and campaigned for President Barack Obama. In 2010, she gained brief prominence when she questioned Obama after his speech at the University of Tampa. That night, she shouted to be heard over a crowd that erupted in cheers and booing when she mentioned the "occupied Palestinian people."

"Why have we not condemned Israel and Egypt's human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people?" she demanded. "And yet we continue supporting them financially with billions of dollars from our tax dollars?"

As Central Florida field coordinator for Emerge, Abdelaziz brings that same passion to defending her cause. "Enough is enough. It's not right to antagonize a community this way," she says.

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.

"What the Muslim community is trying to do is... step up their game.


The classroom at the Islamic Foundation of South Florida is cheery and colorful, with books and posters decorating the walls, including a special picture-book display titled "Meet our President Barack Obama."

It's past 7:30 p.m. on a Friday, and four teenaged boys gather in the corner of the room waiting for the teacher.

"Find Air Jordans," a boy in a Hollister T-shirt commands his iPhone.

The teenagers all attend local public high schools but are here for the weekly youth group run by the mosque after Friday-evening prayers. They're busy debating the previous night's Miami Heat game when a reporter interrupts to ask them about their political leanings.

"Ron Paul 2012!" shouts 16-year-old Hamza Andha, a thin, dark-haired kid who says he wants to be governor of Florida. "I don't want to sound harsh, but he [Obama] is kind of a tool."

The mood shifts when the teacher arrives. Abdur Rahman Al-Ghani is thin and solemn, wearing a white tunic and matching cap. He explains that the youth group has open discussions about the conflicts between Islamic teachings and American culture. For instance, young Muslims are not allowed to date or have sex before marriage. So Al-Ghani talks to the boys about abstinence. "He doesn't want us to end up like the people on Jersey Shore," Hamza jokes.

Tonight, Al-Ghani is lecturing on social media, how it's helped create change through the Arab Spring and Occupy movements. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to combat "greed and a heartless, ultracynical ideology of the banking elites and the policies they generate," the teacher says. Over the next two hours, the topic wanders from economic inequality to the failures Al-Ghani sees in the American system of government.

Shan, the 19-year-old Florida International University student who is friends with Izhar Khan, seems to embody the conflicting opinions in the room. First, he touts his American civil rights: "Our power as Americans is to criticize the politicians to make them better," he says. Moments later, he advocates religion-based government. "Islamic law is perfect."

When the discussion turns to the Khan case, mixed emotions again prevail. The students seem both angry and resigned. Shan's voice rises when he remembers the FBI agents, their guns trained at the mosque, ready to arrest his imam. "We're very good friends," he says of Izhar Khan. He says that Khan helped increase attendance at the mosque and that people were frightened away after his arrest. Wahid called the imam a "huge positive force" for young people.

But when asked about the terrorism charges, Shan becomes subdued, almost mournful. The animation that lit his voice is gone. "There's nothing we can do about it," he says.

Hamza, his 16-year-old classmate, is even more cautious. He's not sure if the allegations against Izhar Khan are true. "Life goes on," he says.

Owais Qureshi, a Deerfield High School student, still has some indignation left. He points out that the Margate mosque serves the wider community and provided food for the needy after Hurricane Wilma. He's hurt that the protesters ignored all that when they yelled and screamed for the mosque to be shut down.

"It does make me sad," he says. "They just didn't choose to first find the truth before they took action."


It will be nine long months before the Khans are scheduled to go to trial. Wahid expects to battle with prosecutors over the accuracy of their translations, since much of their evidence rests on phone calls in which Hafiz Khan was speaking his native Pashto. Meanwhile, both sides are still debating what evidence — particularly information-gathering via wiretapping — should be allowed during trial.

Wahid knows there is pressure to resolve this case. Hundreds of Muslims in South Florida will be invested in the outcome. As religious leaders, the Khans' fate is inextricably linked to their followers. "[This case] will have far more of an impact on the Muslim community as a whole than some other cases we've dealt with," Wahid says.

Back in Margate on a quiet Thursday afternoon, a small group of elderly men leaves the mosque after saying prayers. A white-bearded man stops to praise imam Izhar Khan. He doesn't believe Izhar was supporting terrorists. "He liked to help poor people. We like him. He's very educated. Nice," says the man, who declines to give his name.

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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...!!!

 
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