Broward News

Congressional Candidate Joe Kaufman Calls for End to "Every Florida Radical Muslim Institution"

Joe Kaufman is  running against Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Tim Canova for Florida's 23rd Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, and sections of Miami-Dade County. On Sunday, he put out a call to shut down "every Florida radical Muslim institution" —  though he couldn't say how he'd sort out "radical" from "nonradical" ones. 

Kaufman is running, in essence, on a platform that boils down to "Muslims are scary." He writes often for the ultra-right-wing FrontPage Magazine, where he call Muslims "terrorists." Recently, he spoke alongside Roger Stone at a Donald Trump rally in Florida.

After last weekend's tragic massacre in Orlando, where a bigoted, confused, possibly gay Muslim man killed 49 people at an LGBT nightclub, Republican politicians have hopped back onto the "blame-Islam" bandwagon, and Kaufman is no different. On Sunday, he posted this message on his campaign Facebook page: 
Kaufman also posted a press release on his campaign Facebook page, in which he called the Orlando shooting a "jihadist attack" and said we must not bend to the "sensibilities of the extremist fifth column which currently resides in the U.S."

"What took place was a direct attack on our open society, our fellow citizens, and is a declaration of war," the campaign wrote. "This is war, and it was not chosen, the war has been brought to America. It is a war Joe is well prepared to face and will in Congress next session."

Reached by phone, Kaufman echoed what he'd written online, stressing again that he'd shut down "radical groups" in the name of protecting LGBT people from hate, though he doesn't have a plan yet as to how he'd parse out who is a "radical" or "non-radical."

"There is stuff being discussed locally, horrific things, bigoted things, against homosexuals, in terms of murdering homosexuals," he said. "It's this type of rhetoric that creates individuals like this. I don’t think it’s healthy in our society."

Kaufman has always claimed he's crusading against Islam in order to help keep honest Americans safe from terror. However, the vast majority of mass murders in America are committed by non-Muslim people, and yet Kaufman's focus is on those who follow the Prophet Muhammad. And when Christian pastors claim gay people deserve to be killed, Kaufman is nowhere to be found.

Kaufman's list of "radical" organizations includes Muslim civil-rights groups, like the Council of American-Islamic Relations, and Emerge USA, a Fort Lauderdale-based group that tries to increase voter turnout among Muslim Americans.

Kaufman confirmed that he would like to shut down Pembroke Pines imam Shafayat Mohamed, a man who has routinely denounced all forms of Islamic radicalism for decades, vocally despises ISIS, and is routinely praised for trying to bring people of all religious creeds together.

Kaufman claimed Mohamed's own words can't be trusted. "You know, virtually every radical Muslim org has spoken out against ISIS," he said. "I would take that with a grain of salt. I don’t know of one radical Muslim institution that has said they embrace ISIS."

Kaufman is right that anti-gay bigotry exists in Muslim communities — just as it does in Christian communities, Jewish communities, and virtually all religious communities. He's also right that anti-gay religious messages certainly contributed to Orlando shooter Omar Mateen's violent hatred toward LGBT people, and possibly toward himself. But rather than fix those problems with love and acceptance, Kaufman somehow thinks the proper response is to start shutting down mosques.

Kaufman is adamant that he doesn't hate Muslims, just intolerance, but when I asked him in December if there were any Muslim groups in America he did like, he was unable to name one.

In lighter news, here's a clip of Kaufman getting clowned on the Daily Show in 2012:

Update: Kaufman has pointed out that he has, in the past, criticized the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church and its founder, Fred Phelps.
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Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli