State Rep. Ari Porth agreed to speak this weekend at a convention of the Islamic Society of North America in Fort Lauderdale.
But Porth bailed out yesterday, canceling his speech. Why? Because of pressure from a local extremist named Joe Kaufman put pressure on him, who told him that ISNA was linked to terrorists.
The ISNA, of course, is not a terrorist group. It is a non-violent group of American Muslims. Some involved with the group have had fundraising ties in the past to controversial Palestinian groups, including Hamas, but considering the madness of the Middle East that is bound to happen. The important thing is that ISNA reached out to Porth in an attempt to open a relationship and start some intelligent dialogue. That's a good thing, right?
But Porth bowed out after Kaufman -- whose own dialogue could never be described as intelligent -- got to him. Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief also reportedly dropped out of the convention, but she said she never agreed to attend in the first place (does that sound familiar?). Porth fled the scene after he was hit with angry emails, one of them chiding Porth for supporting our "Muslim-born Pretendent." Inside see why the rep should have run from Kaufman instead.
So who is Joe Kaufman? In short, he's a legal assistant who lives in Broward County who gins up as much hatred as he can on the Internet with a site ironically called "Americans Against Hate."
For an idea of Kaufman's views, let's look at a column he wrote after September 11. The headline says it all, "Making Friends With The Enemy ... The Nuclear Way." An excerpt:
Question: If the decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the right thing to do, in response to Pearl Harbor, then why the heck are we saving our nuclear weapons now? And furthermore, if we're not using them, why do we have the nukes in the first place? After all, there is no more Soviet Union to compete with. If the attacks are not a good enough reason to use them, then what are we holding on to them for?!!!
Now, at this point, you may think of me as being no less than a madman, but hear me out, for I have a method to my madness.
This is a perfect example of Kaufman's penchant for misinformation and illogic. Hiroshima and Nagasaki of course were not in retaliation for Pearl Harbor but a bid to win the war without more loss of American lives (and it's debatable ). He also posits in the column that Iraq is behind the Anthrax scare, which amounted to more false innuendo.
What is the method to his madness? Well Kaufman doesn't want to blow up the entire Muslim world. He just called for nuclear strikes against Syria and Iraq. "We should nuke Damascas," he wrote. You can read the entire rant here.
In 2006, he began protesting a religious retreat for Muslims at a Presbyterian camp in Tampa, calling it a "jihad camp for children" and making unsubstantiated claims it had ties to al-Qaida. On his website he photoshopped images of masked terrorists outside the camp. It led to death threats against the camp that hosted the event, according to the St. Petersburg Times, including this one aimed at retreat organizer Jennifer Valko: "I will undress you paint your body with pig fat & light you. America is on to you! Watch your back!"
In a St. Pete Times article about Kaufman headlined "Are Bloggers Against Hate, or Feeding It?", the newspaper learned what motivated him:
As a boy, Kaufman says he was tormented for being Jewish, which shaped his view of himself.
"These kids turned me into an animal," Kaufman said.
In college, things were better with more friends, especially his roommate, he said. Then he came back to his dorm room one day to see a swastika flag on the wall.
"It was like time stopped for me. And I thought to myself, either I'm going to go through this for the rest of my life, or I'm going to fight it."
Kaufman said he got his roommate kicked out of school for smoking marijuana.
"It made me feel ... that I finally punished the people who were punishing me all of my life."
On Sept. 11, 2001, watching the World Trade Center's twin towers fall, he said it felt again as if time had stopped.
"I decided, like I'd decided in college, to fight against hatred."
Nobody with any brains takes this guy seriously, but he convinced Porth -- who is supposed to represent all his constituents, including Muslims -- to abandon his speech with the ISNA. And now Kaufman is bragging on his website about how he spoke with Porth and changed his mind.
Ari, it's Saturday morning. Get up now and go and talk to the ISNA like a man, like you promised. It the right thing to do.