Busloads of new civic activists are due to hit the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee this Tuesday, ostensibly to engage in the state political process for the first time. But some lawmakers are suspicious because of the man leading the effort.
Ahmed Bedier used to run the Tampa chapter for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), where he was among its most visible spokesmen. That all ended mysteriously last spring, with CAIR saying it wanted to "go into a new direction" – indicating Bedier had been fired – and with Bedier saying he chose to leave to launch "a new peace-making initiative."
One of them must be wrong. Regardless, Bedier did launch a new venture, called United Voices for America. Its call to increase "the participation of ethnic and religious minorities in the political process" is laudable. But at least one lawmaker, State Rep. Adam Hasner (R-Delray Beach) reportedly alerted a group of Jewish lobbyists seeking "an information campaign in opposition."
In correspondence with a Miami Herald reporter, Hasner cited CAIR's ties to Hamas as part of his concern. Bedier dismissed that as "ridiculous" and "nonsense," unrelated to his effort.
Questions about CAIR's Hamas connections, and Bedier's knowledge of them, are far from nonsense. CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas-support case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF). Evidence in the case showed CAIR's founders were part of a U.S.-based effort to support Hamas and that CAIR's foundation was an outgrowth of that effort.
The evidence was so compelling, the FBI decided to cut off outreach meetings with CAIR last summer.
Bedier maintains a relationship with CAIR even if he doesn't work directly for them. Since leaving his job last April, he has traveled the country to host CAIR-sponsored screenings of the documentary "USA v. Al-Arian," which is sympathetic to the former University of South Florida professor who served in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's leadership. In November, Bedier served as master of ceremonies at the CAIR national banquet outside Washington.
So questions about his knowledge of CAIR's agenda, and where he departs from it, are legitimate. Has he ever read the transcripts from the Philadelphia meeting? What does he think of the fact that two of his former bosses participated in the meeting, in which they plotted ways to derail U.S.-led peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians and in which they openly discussed deceiving the American people about it?
What does he think of CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad's enthusiastic affirmation for the statement that "War is deception?"
"Politics is a completion of war," Ahmad said.
Has he seen Ahmad's and CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad's names on this telephone list of the Palestine Committee? (see #s 25 and 32 on page 4. Omar Yehya is a pseudonym for Omar Ahmad).
A July 30, 1994 agenda for the Palestine Committee, seized by federal agents and introduced at trial, showed that "suggestions to develop the work" of HLF, CAIR and other organizations was on the agenda.
Under the heading "The need for trained resources in the media and political fields," the agenda said: "No doubt America is the ideal location to train the necessary resources to support the Movement worldwide."
If he did review the material, what does he think of it? How does he reconcile CAIR's adamant denials that it has ever served in support of Hamas?
When it comes to defending accused terrorists and equivocating when challenged to condemn specific terrorist groups, Bedier is perfectly in sync with CAIR national leaders.
A more detailed report on Bedier is here. Though he recently acknowledged Hamas is a terrorist organization, he minimizes Hamas' deliberate storage of weapons and firing of missiles from civilian areas but places Israel among "Irresponsible rogue states, terror states like Israel."
Like CAIR national leaders, Bedier often casts Muslim Americans who are accused of wrongdoing as victims of a bigoted government. As he told the Associated Press in 2004:
"From our position, prominent Muslim individuals are being targeted selectively by the government. The allegations are overstated and Muslims are facing a double standard."
Asked for CAIR's position on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a designated terrorist group, during a 2004 news conference, Bedier replied, "We have not published one." On a Tampa television program the following year, Bedier was asked whether support for the PIJ was immoral:
"To a certain degree," he said. "Now, before 1995 there was nothing immoral about it." Bedier later claimed he meant there was nothing illegal about it, but the question was about the morality of a terrorist group that has killed dozens of innocent civilians, including at least two American citizens.
The PIJ questions were prompted by Bedier's unwavering support for Al-Arian, who was charged with providing material support to the terrorist group. Al-Arian later pled guilty to conspiring to provide goods and services to the PIJ, acknowledging that he knew it used violence to meet its objectives.
Likewise, Bedier staunchly defended two USF students arrested during a traffic stop in South Carolina in August 2007. Police found ingredients to make a pipe bomb in the trunk of their car, and a laptop computer they carried contained a number of jihadi videos.
Bedier portrayed the students as victims of unwarranted police attention, minimizing the explosives as "fireworks" and calling them "naïve kids."
"No acts of terrorism are alleged; that is not even an issue," he said after the arrests.
In fact, Ahmed Mohamed pled guilty last June to one count of providing material support to terrorists. A 12-minute video he produced was on the seized laptop. On it, Mohamed detonated a remote control bomb and explained how the device allows someone to "preserve his life" rather than carrying out a suicide bombing.
Rather than expressing betrayal, Bedier minimized the plea, writing on his web blog, that "Mohamed chose to cut a plea to one count of material support, which carries of a maximum of 15 years in prison, rather than risk spending the REMAINDER OF HIS LIFE behind bars if convicted."
Bedier insists his upcoming Tallahassee trip has nothing to do with such issues. Instead, he said his group will focus on education, healthcare and the economy. It is unclear how many people Bedier intends to bring. The United Voices website advertised "Comfort charter buses are scheduled to depart Tampa, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale."
The program includes a breakfast atop the state Capitol building, a midday panel discussion and workshop, and a concluding rally outside.
In a letter requesting meetings with lawmakers, Bedier said the goal is "to introduce minorities to civic engagement and encourage their involvement in the political process. We believe this is a great opportunity for you to communicate directly with minority constituents you may not be able to reach via traditional channels."
That's all a lovely sentiment. And if the program brings more people into the process, that's a good thing. However, Bedier's involvement, given his history of defense of terrorist supporters, can only serve to taint that effort, not advance it.
To see our full report on Bedier, click here.