November 11, 2013
The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR–FL) organized the particiaption of South Florida Muslims veterans in the November 8 Miami-Dade County Golden Veterans Parade 50th Anniversary Commemoration.
The parade was an initiative of County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz and the Miami-Dade County Military Affairs Board, and with the support of 34 Miami-Dade municipalities, local military organizations and a diverse group of community leaders.
Attorney Wilfredo A. Ruiz, legal counsel for CAIR-FL and a Navy veteran officer who served in the JAGC Corps and in the Chaplain Corps, participated in the parade.
Ruiz, who is also the Secretary for the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board, said: “This type of event is necessary and welcomed as it honors those who have served this nation. It is good that the general public witness Muslim veterans of America participating because it is another way for them to realize that our community is an active contributor in upholding our most cherished values of liberty and democracy.”
October 10, 2013
Most Latinos know the country is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month right now. What far fewer Latinos know is that next week marks Eid al-Adha, one of Islam’s most sacred holidays.
And yet the two observances are more related now than most Latinos realize.
Just as the U.S. Latino population is on the rise — Hispanics are now the nation’s largest minority — so is the number of Latino Muslims. And it’s not just a result of Arab Latin Americans emigrating to the United States.
According to organizations like WhyIslam.org, Latinos are one of the fastest growing segments of the Muslim community. About six percent of U.S. Muslims are now Latino — and as many as a fifth of new converts to Islam nationwide are Latino.
The American Muslim Association of North America, based in North Miami, says heavily Hispanic South Florida in particular is home to a rising number of Latino Muslims.
If it’s a surprise that many Latinos are moving from a predominantly Roman Catholic culture to an originally Arab faith, perhaps it shouldn’t be. For one thing, like African-Americans in the 1960s, Latinos are discovering their own historical and cultural ties to Islam and the Arab world. And that starts with what most defines Latinos: Spanish.
“Our language is nurtured by more than 4,000 words that come from Arabic,” says Wilfredo Ruiz, a Puerto Rican-born Muslim who converted a decade ago and is a lawyer for the South Florida chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. “Every word in Spanish that starts with ‘al,’ for example, like alcalde, alcantarilla, almohada.”
“What most Latinos who have embraced Islam find most amazing is their cultural affinity to the Muslim culture,” says Ruiz. “It’s like rediscovering your past. That area of our past has been hidden from us.”
Ruiz points out that both Latinos and Arabs highly value the extended family and traditions like offering hospitality to strangers. In religious terms, Latinos like Gonzalez say Islam provides a simpler, more direct form of worship than Catholicism does. They also feel more structure than they see in the evangelical churches so many Latinos join today.
“The connection I have with God now is better than before,” says Gonzalez.
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 invisible 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:
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.”
That is, if the pythons don’t get us first.
MIAMI — The imam of a small mosque in a working-class neighborhood here was found guilty in federal court on Monday of providing thousands of dollars of support to the Pakistani Taliban.
Capping a two-month trial, the imam, Hafiz Khan, 77, an American citizen who came to the United States in 1994, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of conspiracy and two counts of providing material support to terrorists. Each count faces a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
Over the course of four days, the frail cleric delivered long speeches to the jury in Pashto, his native language, coming to his own defense. Mr. Khan said that he was “totally against” the Taliban and that he had sent the money to Pakistan to provide for his family and the Muslim school he had founded in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.
But federal prosecutors said Mr. Khan and, to a lesser extent, other relatives, not only embraced the Taliban’s mission but also helped finance it. Mr. Khan, they said, sent an estimated $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, which is allied with Al Qaeda and is responsible for attacks against the Pakistani police and military targets.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, it has become increasingly common for prosecutors to charge people with supporting the Pakistani Taliban even if they did not carry out operations themselves. Of the 50 top terrorism cases since Sept. 11, about 70 percent have involved financing or other support to terrorist groups, according to the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law.
MIAMI — A mental competency examination has been ordered in the case of a Muslim imam in South Florida accused of raising money for the Pakistani Taliban terror group.
A federal judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation of 77-year-old Hafiz Khan to take place by Aug. 31. The judge wants to decide if Khan is able to understand his legal proceedings and if he can assist in his own defense.
Khan and one of his sons are charged with providing material support to terrorists by allegedly funneling about $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban. They have pleaded not guilty. Charges were dropped against another of Khan’s sons.
The case could be delayed indefinitely if the elder Khan is ruled incompetent to stand trial.
MIAMI — Two Muslim clerics accused of providing financial support to the Pakistani Taliban terrorist group are again seeking release on bail.
A hearing was set Friday in Miami federal court for 76-year-old Hafiz Muhammad Sher Ali Khan and his son, 24-year-old Izhar Khan. Both are imams at South Florida mosques. They have been in solitary confinement since their May 14 arrests.
A magistrate judge in May ordered both men held without bail until trial. Their lawyers say prosecutors have scant evidence that they pose any threat or would flee to Pakistan rather than stand trial.
A second son charged in the case, Irfan Khan, will have a bail hearing July 15. Three other people, including a daughter and grandson of the elder Khan, are also charged but remain in Pakistan.
MIAMI — Despite a frail and pious appearance, a South Florida Muslim cleric was a dedicated financier of the violent Pakistani Taliban who disliked the “wretched” U.S. and sought the overthrow of Pakistan’s government, a federal prosecutor said in court Monday.
Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, directed how thousands of dollars were to be distributed to militant fighters “down to the dollar” and maintained at least three bank accounts in Pakistan to accept the funds, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley. More than $200,000 has been deposited in those accounts since 2005, he added, although not all the money is linked to terrorism.
Shipley laid out more details of the case against Khan, his sons Izhar Khan, 24, and 37-year-old Irfan Khan, and three other suspects at a bail hearing. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber ordered Hafiz Khan and Izhar Khan held without bail, agreeing with prosecutors that both present a danger to the community and are at risk of fleeing the country.
Attorneys for Hafiz and Izhar Khan argued that both deserved release on bail, contending that conversations recorded by the FBI could amount to little more than political ranting and that they sent the money to relatives in Pakistan as millions of other immigrants do every day.