Palm Beach News

Islamophobes Target Anti-Islamophobia Event at Florida Atlantic University Tonight

An anti-Islamophobia panel at Florida Atlantic University scheduled for tonight has, paradoxically, been targeted by Islamophobes.

The panel, which is set to run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at FAU's Grand Palm Room, is the second in a series of discussions that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is holding in order to educate people about the diversity of the Islamic world.

But a group of well-known anti-Islam activists has publicly said they intend to show up at the event. 

Tom Trento runs a group called the "United West," which purports to run an "information war" against Muslims attempting to wage a "civilization jihad" against the West.

On a Facebook page called "Jewish Patriots," a poster shared Trento's calls for his fellow Islamophobes to attend tonight's event. Trento wrote, "We are simply members of the audience, watching and learning how the Muslim Brotherhood operates its 'civilization jihad' programs. PLEASE, do not do anything disruptive, as that plays right into their ridiculous 'Islamophobia' narrative." 

The person who shared his post on Facebook chimed in that "These Junior terrorists, including many Jewish college age students, who are all anti-Semitic and pro-Palestine, can raise as much havoc as they desire without any opposition or restraint from the authorities. They seem not to have to worry about any forceful restrictions placed on their illegal actions or [about ever being] given any jail time. It seems that any Israeli or political conservative group has to obey the laws of free speech, but any terrorist group is permitted to break every law in the Constitution as well as all local laws with impunity." 

Speakers tonight will include CAIR Florida communications director and civil rights attorney Wilfredo Ruiz, Shaikh Shafayat Mohamed of the Darul Uloom Islamic Center, attorney Maha El Kolalli, FAU Engineering Professor Basem Al Halabi, and student Deema Gichi. A pastor and rabbi are also set to speak.

Reached by phone, Ruiz said his group was forced to beef up security at the event. They've now hired "five or six" policemen, he says, up from just the single one they planned to have.

People like Trento, Ruiz says, are part of a global "Islamophobia industry," which is made up of scores of men and women profiting from the hate they spew.

He said that at tonight's event, panelists will talk about discrimination they have faced: "One neighbor sent his five dogs to attack this man's poodle, and then called him a 'terrorist,'" Ruiz explained, referencing this insane story from Lake Wales. (The assailant was also naked at the time.) The victim has since asked CAIR for legal help, Ruiz said. He added: "It was insane, like something out of a script."

He continued: "There have been teachers calling students 'ragheads' or 'Taliban.' Then we have Marco Rubio saying he is not aware of any Islamophobic incidents in Florida."

One of the only avenues to combat the hatred, Ruiz said, was to hold town-hall style events like the one scheduled for tonight in order to educate people around South Florida. "We can have a professor at FAU say, 'This is my daily routine, and this is how Islamophobia has affected me.'"

Here's Trento's message:

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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