The island state of Trinidad has a serious problem with Islamist extremism—well over a hundred Trinidad citizens have joined ISIS, the greatest per-capita number in the Western Hemisphere. The concerned U.S. Embassy, trying to reach out to a local Muslim population that is no stranger to radicalism, recently brought Nezar Hamze, a "Muslim Community Outreach Expert," all the way to Trinidad to speak at the embassy's annual iftar. Hamze, however, is an official of the Florida branch of the terror-linked Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Now Trinidad has two problems.
To be fair, it is easy to understand why the Embassy would have thought of Hamze. He serves as a deputy sheriff in Broward County, Florida, and has carved out a niche for himself as a facilitator between the Muslim community and law enforcement officials. CAIR has used him to train several law enforcement organizations, including a national security delegation from France, on "preserving liberty" in the course of terror investigations.
On the other side of the coin, Hamze has been energetically providing defensive gun training to dozens of mosques in Florida—including the terror-linked Masjid Jamaat Al-Mumineen (MJAM), for which Hamze was roundly criticized. (MJAM's imam, Izhar Khan, was arrested for collecting money for the Taliban; while his father, Hafiz Muhammed Sher Khan, was convicted of all counts, Izhar's case was thrown out for lack of evidence.)
But Hamze's continued association with CAIR-Florida is troubling. Not only is it unusual for a serving sheriff's deputy also to work for an activist group of any kind, but CAIR-Florida has displayed extremist behavior on many occasions.
CAIR-Florida executive director Hassan Shibly has publicly claimed that Hezbollah is "absolutely not a terrorist organization" and that "any war against them is illegitimate." He also claimed that Israel had advance knowledge of 9/11 and perhaps even orchestrated it, that the U.S. and U.K. were instigating terror attacks in Iraq to justify their presence, and that the FBI shot Ibrahim Todashev, an associate of the Boston Marathon bombers, in cold blood. Furthermore, despite his loud protestations of solidarity with the Florida gay community after the Orlando nightclub attack, Shibly has a history of expressing anti-homosexual statements.
CAIR-Florida was listed as a sponsor for a 2014 Miami rally that featured chants of "We are Hamas! We are Jihad!" In the aftermath of video surfacing of the event, CAIR-Florida denied being associated with the rally—which is strange, since its name was listed on the rally's flyers, and since it had certainly sponsored the rally in 2013. CAIR-Florida has also repeatedly featured extremist imams at its events, including Siraj Wahhaj, Johari Abdul-Malik, and Kifah Mustapha.
Did the Embassy have no one else they could have brought in? Someone who does not willingly associate with CAIR-Florida, Hassan Shibly and the extremism they represent?
In fact, there are plenty of true Muslim moderates that the Embassy could have called upon—and should have done. It is long past time for the U.S. Government as a whole to stop conferring legitimacy on Islamists, and to begin empowering the moderates who can truly speak for the Muslim community.