The most recent meeting of the Broward County Republicans Executive Committee (BREC) was most certainly different from most. Tea party fervor, Muslim activism (note, not extremism) and post 9/11 views towards Muslims collided last night in Fort Lauderdale. A Muslim activist, Nezar Hamze, was denied a post on the BREC because of his association with a group whose D.C. affiliate was purportedly “an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal terrorism indictment”.
Hamze, who says he has been a registered Republican for about a decade, is the South Florida director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR is the largest American Muslim civil liberties group and advocates for civil rights for Muslim-Americans. The group has stepped up its efforts since September 11, 2001 to advocate for those Muslims who have been targeted since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. CAIR, along with 300 other organizations, was named in a May 2007 action by the U.S. against the Holy Land Foundation, which was the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., as an “unindicted co-conspirator”. The Holy Land Foundation was accused of providing funds to Hamas. In August of 2007, an FBI agent testified that CAIR and its two co-founders were listed as members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee. The case ended in a mistrial. However, in the retrial of the case, another FBI agent described CAIR as a “front group for Hamas”. Then in January 2009, the D.C. office of the FBI instructed all its field offices to cut ties with CAIR. While CAIR was not formally charged with anything, the group fears the labels will haunt them.
Nezar claimed the South Florida affiliate of CAIR had nothing to do the suspect activities of the Washington group. Prior to the BREC vote, the Muslim activist told a reporter that he was “aligned with Republican values” and efforts to prevent him from serving the party were a result of “bigotry”. Some members of the party claim he was running as a “publicity stunt”. It is reasonable to view it that way considering his association with a group that, per his own admission, was involved in “suspect activities”. While the South Florida affiliation likely had nothing to do with the D.C. affiliates’ alleged activities, his continued association with this group likely put into question his true intentions to members of the party.
The Broward County Republican Party also has its fair share of questionable actions as well. They changed their rules solely to publicly question, harass and test Hamze. One member shouted “Terrorist!” at him. Nezar was loudly asked over a microphone in front of some 300 members if he supported Congressman Allan West, if he would denounce terrorism, and was told his group was a terrorist organization. Lastly, BREC Chairman Richard DeNapolis announced to the cheering crowd: “Mr. Hamze, your membership has been denied”. Needless to say, he was the only member to have to go through this new vetting process.
The scene at the Fort Lauderdale Sheraton Suites Monday night must have been surreal. It seems reasonable to question Hamze’s motives due to his continued association with a named “co-conspirator” and his pre-vote discussions with a reporter. However, the manner in which the BREC and its chairman Richard DeNapolis conducted themselves is also extremely troubling. An issue that could have been discussed and handled through normal procedures and behind closed doors became a spectacle. There was clearly no possibility of Hamze being elected a BREC member, yet DeNapolis and his gang set out to publicly embarrass and ridicule him, creating a newsworthy story in the process. Maybe that’s exactly what Nezar Hamze wanted.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons