The Council on American-Islamic Relations appears to have parted ways with one of its highest profile executives, but no one is saying why.
Ahmed Bedier, executive director of CAIR's Tampa chapter, is no longer being identified as such in media reports. He has been quoted three times in the past week - two references call him a "civil rights activist" - while a third invokes his volunteer role as president of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Human Rights Council.
The council is an independent non-profit organization that works with the city of Tampa. According to a city web page, the council "brings together citizens of various backgrounds. They all have one thing in common: a desire to promote the human rights of all individuals, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948."
As of this writing, Bedier's myspace page hasn't been updated since April 24 and still lists his CAIR position. But a report in InFocus, a California Muslim newspaper closely related to CAIR, on an April 17 screening of a documentary supporting convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian referred only to Bedier's position with the Tampa human rights council.
Ross Silvers, disability rights coordinator for the city of Tampa and its liaison to the Human Rights Council, said he received a curious answer when he called the CAIR chapter office Tuesday inquiring about Bedier's status. "They said they think he's still with CAIR in some capacity" but didn't know what that was.
In addition to his high-profile media role, Bedier was becoming a fixture at CAIR fundraising events throughout the country. Whatever may have prompted Bedier to leave his post at CAIR, Tampa newspapers aren't saying. That's odd, since he's been the go-to source for quotes on everything from Al-Arian to any episode of alleged anti-Muslim bias.
The St. Petersburg Times profiled Bedier in 2005 and the Tampa Tribune did so in May 2007.
The Times quoted Bedier the civil rights activist Monday and Tuesday on the case of two University of South Florida students accused of carrying explosives over state lines. Since their arrest following a traffic stop near Goose Creek, S.C. last August, Bedier cast Youssef Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed as naïve kids victimized by racial profiling.
After Al-Arian's 2003 arrest, Bedier told the Christian Science Monitor the case was not about the professor's work in support of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but rather, it was "an effective tool to silence anti-Israeli views in the country. People are afraid to speak up because they don't want to get into trouble."
Bedier appeared on a local Tampa show, "Your Turn with Kathy Fountain," on WTVT. The host asked him, "If he was associating with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, doesn't that seem immoral, in your opinion?" Bedier replied, "To a certain degree. Now, before 1995 there was nothing immoral about it."
He later said he misspoke and meant to say there was nothing illegal about working with the PIJ prior to 1995.
Last summer, he appeared on a local public television forum organized as a rebuttal to the documentary "Islam vs. Islamists," which chronicled the efforts of moderate Muslims to minimize the influence of radicals over their faith.
In the discussion, Bedier criticized the program for including a grainy scene of a veiled woman being stoned to death. It was inappropriate, he said, because it is "definitely not government sanctioned," and no longer a punishment that is used. In cases of adultery, it's nearly impossible to meet the evidentiary standard of four eyewitnesses to prove the allegation.
"So you have to be like a porn star to get convicted," Bedier said.
The Islamic Republic of Iran must have a thriving underground porn industry. Amnesty International reported that a woman was stoned to death there a month before Bedier's flippant minimization of a vicious government-sanctioned public execution. Amnesty International has spent years speaking out against Iranian stonings. In October 2005, it issued a statement expressing its horror that Iran continues the practice "despite having announced a moratorium on such executions."
There are plenty of reasons someone becomes an oft-quoted source in the media. Sometimes their expertise is head and shoulders above everyone else's. Sometimes they're dependable providers of the shock and outrage quote. But the not-so-secret truth is, often it's a simple question of knowing they will call back. Reporters needing a comment on deadline aim for the low-hanging fruit. Bedier satisfies that need, even if his claims turn out to be false, as in the case of the stoning denial.
Bedier certainly has a right to express his views to anyone willing to hear them. But things are different now. The InFocus article which references Bedier as the president of the Tampa/Hillsborough Human Rights Council, stated:
Bedier said Al-Arian's arrest may have been a strategic move to scare the Muslim community.
"But we're no longer afraid," said Bedier.
So Bedier is speaking for the "Muslim community" in his capacity as president of a local government-sanctioned council? If he no longer works for a Muslim organization - let alone one that purports to speak for all American Muslims despite well-documented ties to terrorists and extremist positions - reporters should ask just whom he does speak for
before quoting him again. For now, it appears at least that he is trading on his old position and abusing his new one.