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Muslim Group Heads to Tallahassee; Anti-Muslim Group Stokes Fear

A group of about 50 Muslims from South Florida is embarking this morning on a trip to Tallahassee, where it will have secret meetings with state policymakers. It's called "Muslim Day," and the Lake Worth-based Florida Security Council says we freedom-loving Americans should be very afraid.

Summoning my courage, I placed a phone call yesterday to one of the organizers of the trip, Muhammed Malik, the new executive director of this region's Council on American-Islamic Relations. In short order, Malik confessed his nefarious plan: the group, consisting mostly of Muslim middle school, high school, and college students, wanted to talk to state officials about tuition costs at Florida universities, about health care and immigration.

Wait. That's not nefarious at all! According to the Florida Security Council, CAIR's mission is to "Islamicize" America.

Malik told me that the doctrine he knows forbids people of the faith from pressuring non-Muslims to convert. The idea that CAIR aims to "impose sharia law" on the United States, as Florida Security Council claims, is "ridiculous," says Malik. He adds: "They're marginalizing Muslim people and using fear to whip up unjustified anger."

But that's not the mission statement of the Florida Security Council. As you can see from its website, the council exists for "Securing Florida Against Terror."

And surely, the best way to prevent Muslims from committing terrorism is to stage protests when Muslim Americans have a meeting, as occurred this past weekend. Then in the days before Muslim American students head to the state capital, it's wise to release a video like the one below, full of all kinds of paranoid possibilities about a Muslim master plan.

In short, by challenging Muslims Americans' claim to basic democratic rights, those Muslims will learn to love this American democracy of ours. Or at least respect it. Fear it, maybe? Does this make any sense?

To Florida Security Council, it does. But Malik posits another theory. "People [in an ethnic or religious group] become radicalized when they don't have access to the mainstream political system," he says. By his reckoning, Muslims who are allowed to participate in American democracy are far less likely to develop hatred for it. That hatred is what provides a seed for terrorism.

The only reason that the meetings between Muslims and Florida officials are made secret, says Malik, is for "security reasons." They don't want anti-Muslim groups to compromise the safety of the young people on the trip.

As for this weekend's fundraiser at the Broward County Convention Center, Malik pronounced it a success. He says that CAIR raised enough money to cover its operational expenses. Malik is replacing the longtime executive director, Altaf Ali, who stepped down in June, but CAIR's membership was receptive to Malik's plans to more closely engage the Muslim youth of South Florida as well as the women and the interfaith community. The protesters on the sidewalk outside were a mild annoyance.

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Thomas Francis

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