As I reported in a piece for the print magazine last summer, Florida has emerged as sort of the Thunderdome of the anti-Shariah movement, with a host of lawmakers at the municipal, state, and federal level working hand-in-hand with a dedicated group of activists to combat the invisble spectre of Islamic law. Shariah isn’t coming to South Florida, but that hasn’t stopped the state legislature from trying—again—to ban it from being used in state courts.
On Friday, the South Florida chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations blasted out this video, in which state Sen. Alan Hays, the bill’s Republican sponsor, compares stopping Shariah to getting a polio vaccination:
When you were a child, did your parents have you vaccinated against different diseases? That was a preemptive gesture on their part for which I would hope you’re very thankful. And this is very similar to that. Your mom and dad would not want you to get sick from one of those dreadful diseases, and I don’t want any American to be in a Florida courtroom and have their constitutional rights violated by any foreign law. That’s it. It’s not that complicated.
By all accounts, Hays considers the threat posed by Islamic law quite dire. The Miami Herald reported earlier in March that the senator had distributed anti-Shariah literature in the halls of the state capitol. Per the Herald, the fliers “present Islam as a threat to the United States,” and invoke lawmakers to pass legislation to “save us from an internal attack” and “protect our freedom.”
A renewed attempt to pass a controversial “foreign law” bill proposed by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yahala, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, after more than an hour of sometimes emotional public testimony.
The bill, SB 58, bans courts or other legal authorities from using religious or foreign law as a part of a legal decision or contract relating to family law. Florida law would supercede foreign law regarding divorce, alimony, the division of marital assets, child support and child custody. The bill is ready to be heard on the House floor but it has more committee stops in the Senate. Last year, the bill passed the House but died in the Senate.
Supporters say the proposal isn’t targeting religious groups, but the bill has been criticized as anti-Sharia, a Koran-based code followed in some Islamic countries, by Islamic groups as well as Jewish organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It should raise some eyebrows for you, the fact that there’s a rabbi speaking out against the bill who’s from Israel and a Arab Muslim, that’s me, also speaking out against the bill,” said Ahmed Bedier, president of the United Voices for America. “We may disagree what is happening in the Middle East, but we agree on this bill – that it discriminates and targets our communities.”
Hays said the bill “prevents a potential problem” from occurring in Florida courts and that it’s “not insulting to any religious group.”
“If your law violates the constitutional rights of a Floridian, it has no business being in a Florida court,” Hays said.
The U.S. Department of Justice and police are investigating the shooting of a Port Orange man driving over the Dunlawton Bridge as a hate crime.
The victim, 46-year-old Kanwaljit Singh, was driving with his son and wearing a head turban when he was shot at six times by people in a black truck. Two of the bullets struck Singh, who family members say was in the intensive care unit Monday at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach.
The turban is one of the precepts of his Sikh religion, said Navtej S. Khalsa, regional director of the southeast chapter of the national Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Khalsa said his organization believes the attack on Saturday night just after 11 p.m. was a hate crime because the shooters probably thought Singh — an American citizen of Indian descent — is from the Middle East.
“Since Sept. 11, Sikhs have often been the targets of hate crimes because of their visible outward appearance, primarily the wearing of the turban,” Khalsa said. “In the past three years, hate crimes against Sikhs have risen across the country.
Lou Ruffino, a spokesman with the Community Relations Service in Washington, D.C. — under the Department of Justice — confirmed that Mildred Duprey de Robles from the federal agency’s Miami office would be looking into the shooting.
The Community Relations Service was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Ruffino said. On the agency’s website, the Community Relations Board is described as the “peacemaker” for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color and national origin.
Over the past two legislative sessions, the Florida House and Senate wasted precious taxpayer dollars hearing harmful and unnecessary anti-Sharia legislation. Indeed, it came perilously close to passage in 2012 — passing the House and ultimately dying awaiting a final vote in the Senate.
So no Floridian should be surprised that an anti-Sharia bill was once again filed for the 2013 session. The real uncertainty is whether Tallahassee leadership will finally stand up to this intolerance, or again give into it and, in the process, waste valuable taxpayer dollars.
The neutrally titled and worded “Application of Foreign Law” bill, which applies to family law provisions, is nothing more than camouflaged bigotry. It is based on model language drafted by a controversial attorney, David Yerushalmi, who has a record of espousing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and racist views.
This legislation is a classic example of the proverbial “solution in search of a problem.” Its supposed purpose is to counter the infiltration of our judicial and legal system by Sharia (Islamic) law. But for the past two legislative sessions, proponents have failed to cite even one Florida court decision, or any other court decision, demonstrating an actual need for this legislation.
They can’t provide any examples because — as pointed out by a recent American Bar Association resolution and report opposing anti-Sharia measures — state and federal laws already prohibit courts from applying religious or foreign law in any way that would be against public policy, or constitute government advancement of or entanglement with religion.
This reckless legislation, however, imprudently goes far beyond these proven limitations.
The Legislature’s leadership should block this legislation because it is legally unwarranted and morally abhorrent. Simply put, anti-Muslim prejudice must not be memorialized in Florida law. But blocking this legislation is also in the religious freedom interests of other Florida communities.
This legislation is applicable to all religious law. So, for instance, the observant Jewish community regularly uses religious tribunals (Bet Dins) to resolve all kinds of disputes, including divorce settlements, which often are the basis for civil court divorce decrees and orders.
But this legislation would prevent a Jewish couple in Florida from voluntarily using a Bet Din to resolve their divorce settlement, and also would invalidate an out-of state divorce based on a Bet Din arbitration.
It also could negatively impact the use of Christian religious tribunals or certain applications of Canon law.
The leadership in Tallahassee needs to send a clear message that Florida values its diversity and welcomes persons of all backgrounds. They can do that by blocking this offensive bill, and unifying Floridians through legislation that finds common ground to move the state forward.
Last summer, then-as-yet-undefeated-congressman Allen West took his whirlwind American diplomacy tour to the Council on American Islamic Relations, which sent him a letter asking him
Read more at to distance himself from the prominent Islamophobes he’d been palling around with. West, seeing an opportunity for prejudice-fueled grandstanding, sent a response to CAIR: It said, simply, “NUTS.”
You may have forgotten this, on account of one asinine Allen West military reference kind of blends in with the rest. BUT! That letter, in addition to reminding us that literally anyone can get himself some congressional stationery if he appeals to the right Christians, is now doing some good: It’s raising money for CAIR, which will go toward either defending civil rights or building car bombs, depending on whom you ask. Maybe even both!
What appears to be the South Florida chapter of CAIR is auctioning off the “NUTS!” letter, and right now it’s 12 bids in and going for more than $2,200 — a small sum compared to compensation being afforded to CAIR in superdense piles of schadenfreude, but still, not chump change for a piece of paper! Check this, from the eBay listing:
Up for Auction is one of the shortest Congressional Letters ever written in US History! This is the ORIGINAL LETTER on Official US Congressional Stationary signed by Allen West himself! This item has something for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a die-hard member of the Tea Party, Democratic Party, or protect the Civil Rights of Americans; this item is perfect for your collection.
Tea Party- This letter is signed by your fearless Rock Star! If you win this auction you will have signed documented proof that Allen West stood up in the face of your “EVIL” to protect the US (A “Judeo-Christian” Nation) from the Muslims. Your collection can’t go without this item.
Members of the Democratic Party- This letter represents the accomplishment of Democratic Party’s victory over Allen West. Allen West’s firebrand of politics often came with blanket insults towards Democrats with no regard of Congressional Fellowship or Respect.
So there you go! You’ve got until Jan. 17 to bid, if you have a few thousand dollars lying around. You never know, though — congressional letters from West might lose value if he keeps sending them. OH WAIT HE LOST. Haaaaahahaha sorry Allen, good luck finding a job in this economy, which you totally helped save by holding Creeping Sharia hearings during the debt ceiling “crisis.” Maybe CAIR needs a lobbyist?
Surveillance video captures the moment Mr Mohammed and his girlfriend were attacked at point-blank range outside a shopping centre parking lot in Florida around 3am on Thursday.
Their alleged assailant, Daniel Quinnell, had approached the couple from behind, yelling racial slurs, before squeezing the trigger on his gas-propelled pellet gun as many as 20 times, police said.
But Mr Mohammed kept his concealed gun in its holster throughout the attack – even though firing back may have been justified under Florida’s controversial stand-your-ground laws, which permits people to use deadly force when there is a reasonable belief of an unlawful threat.
“I just couldn’t do it,” he told the Tampa Bay Times.
“I couldn’t blow this guy away for something he could change later in life. I’m not going to decide this man’s fate.”
Quinnell, 25, had allegedly asked Mr Mohammed if he was Muslim or from the Middle East.
When Mr Mohammed, who was born in Trinidad and raised in Tampa, said no, Quinnell began shooting him and his girlfriend anyway, police said.
Mr Mohammed will have surgery to remove a few of the pellets.
Quinnell allegedly fled the crime scene but was arrested a few days later when his mother turned him in.
He will face court charged with aggravated battery.
Quinnell had previously been banned from carrying firearms, because of his history of battery charges and violent threats.
That was why he carried the pellet gun instead during Thursday’s attack, he allegedly told police.
LUTZ, Florida – It is a shocking crime in a highly-populated place: Walmart.
A man and his girlfriend were shot at 20 times with an Airsoft BB pistol as they were entering the Walmart Super Center at 1575 Land O’Lakes Boulevard in Lutz around 3 a.m.
But what’s possibly more shocking — and even more sinister –is the motive behind the crime.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating this case heavily, because it’s considered a hate crime. The young couple in their twenties was targeted because the man was of Middle Eastern descent and was dating a white woman, according to documents.
The shooter saw the couple and was “relentless,” said Pasco Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Doug Tobin.
The shooter, also believed to be in his twenties, spotted the man and his girlfriend and began screaming at them, taunting them, and yelled out racial slurs, detectives say. He asked the young man if he was Middle Eastern and if he was a Muslim.
Then the suspect pulled out the pellet gun and opened fire, calling the man a “n—– with a white girl.”
Twenty tiny rounds were fired from the BB pistol. Two hit the young man.
“This will not be tolerated in Pasco County,” said Sheriff Chris Nocco on Wednesday morning. “We are putting all of our resources into solving this.”
The couple, who is not being identified for safety reasons, was reportedly shaken by the traumatic event. The young man is currently recovering after being struck in the face.
The Muslim civil rights group CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is calling for the feds to get involved.
“We urge the FBI to investigate this case because it seems to fit a disturbing pattern of recent incidents targeting Muslims in Florida and nationwide,” said CAIR-Tampa executive director Hassan Shibly in a statement.
The hate crime was caught on camera at Walmart, but the video has not yet been released. The shooter is being described as a young man in his twenties with short blonde hair, no visible tattoos, last seen wearing a brown jacket, blue jeans, and green sandals. He was tracked by K-9s, but got away after he took off running.
Frequent Walmart shoppers were stunned by the news. “There are still idiots out there [in 2013] who do this sort of thing,” said Cathy Breitenbach. “It’s sad really.”
Karen Garcia told 10 News, “I’m so surprised. This is a great town to live in and raise kids. I shop here every single Monday. I may bring my husband with me now.”
Sheriff’s spokesperson Doug Tobin added, “We are taking this very seriously and are hoping that someone who may have seen this will come forward and help us. This couple was just minding their own business.”
If you know who did this or have heard anyone talking about this case, please call the Pasco Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-706-2488.
Local Muslim organizations have started a media campaign stressing the commonality of Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The billboards proclaiming “Same family, Same message” sprouting throughout the Orlando and Daytona Beach areas are sponsored by the Longwood-based American Muslim Community Centers, the Islamic Center of Orlando and the United Muslim Foundation in Lake Mary.
“In the holiday season, people are more spiritual,” said AMCC Chairman Atif Fareed. “The idea is this would be an ideal time to spread the message that we are really from the same source: one family, one message.”
A sword-wielding woman was arrested Wednesday morning after she entered a mosque located on the campus of a private Orlando school.
Dominique Vianneyte Eloi, 47, was arrested on charges of possession of a weapon on school grounds, disrupting a school function and aggravated assault with a weapon.
According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Eloi drove onto the campus of Leaders Preparatory School on North Goldenrod Road near East Colonial Drive and North Chickasaw Trail and got out of her car carrying a 2-foot-long sword.
An employee asked the woman what she was doing, but she did not respond, authorities said. Authorities say she didn’t speak English and had several identifications on her, including one from Arizona.
The school was placed on lockdown, and the school worker called authorities.
Deputies spotted Eloi walking out of the mosque, and she was arrested.
“I have no idea who she is or why she chose to come here,” said Iman Mohammed Musri, of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. “I tried to speak to her, but she didn’t respond to anything, she started speaking German.”
No one was injured in the incident.
An investigation is ongoing, and deputies said it’s unclear why Eloi went to the campus. It’s also not known if she has any ties to anyone at the school or mosque.
Jail officials said Eloi, who’s being held on no bond, has been uncooperative.
According to the school’s website, one of its goals is to “provide a comprehensive Islamic education combined with a general studies curriculum.”
Watch Local 6 and stay with ClickOrlando.com for more on this story.
Yesterday, right-wing House Republican Allen West finally conceded in his race against Democrat Patrick Murphy. West had made himself notorious for his anti-Muslim attitude. He argued that Islam is “not a faith” but a “totalitarian theocratic political ideology,” and that terrorism is inherent to Islam. He even said that Muslim congressman Keith Ellison (D) of “represent(ing) the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”
But in an America that grows increasingly progressive and tolerant, bigotry can be a major electoral liability. Murphy’s margin of victory is roughly 1,900 votes. I talked to Imran Siddiqui, who works for the organization Empowering Motivating Educating Resourceful Grassroots Entities, which registers Muslim voters in the area. He mentioned that his organization had 2,500 Muslim voters in their database in the district and that they witnessed 80 percent turnout. That means roughly 2,000 Muslim-American votes — a little bit higher than Murphy’s margin of victory.
West’s loss should be a lesson to all those in Congress who would try to use bigotry to their political advantage. Sometimes the targets of your ire get out and vote, and when they do, you lose.