Ahmed Bedier, the former Executive Director of the Tampa office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Tampa), is now the President of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council (THHRC), a group that the local Tampa government has involvement with. Given Bedier’s lengthy extremist past, isn’t this a conflict of interest for the city?
Bedier first arrived on the scene with CAIR, a group with deep ties to Hamas, in February of 2003. February 2003 was also the month that federal authorities took Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative and co-founder of CAIR’s parent organization, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), Sami Al-Arian, into custody. It seems that this was no mere coincidence, for all throughout Al-Arian’s ordeal, Bedier was his unofficial spokesperson in the media. Anytime anything regarding Al-Arian came up, it was Bedier who was there to discuss the matter. Al-Arian was part of Tampa, and CAIR had its guy in Tampa to defend him.
Bedier was with CAIR for over five years, ending his association last May. During that time, CAIR was named in two federal trials brought by the U.S. Justice Department, one as a co-conspirator and the other as a supporter of terrorists. As well, in that time, three of CAIR’s former representatives were convicted of terror-related crimes. One, Randall Todd “Ismail” Royer, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for plotting to go overseas to join Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani group responsible for the recent attacks on Mumbai, India.
Besides Al-Arian, another terror-related individual that Bedier acted as spokesperson for is Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, who was sentenced last week to 15 years in prison for creating a video showing would-be terrorists how to turn a remote-control toy into a bomb detonator. Mohamed, along with Youssef Samir Megahed, two Tampa-area students, were indicted in August of 2007 for transporting explosive materials across state lines. Bedier claimed that their arrests amounted to nothing more than ‘racial profiling’ due to their Middle-Eastern backgrounds.
Bedier has utilized the radio show that he has co-hosted since July of 2005, True Talk on WMNF, to defend Al-Arian and the two student radicals. On his show, he has provided their attorneys and members of their families a forum to speak. Primarily, though, Bedier’s radio show is used to give voice to those who vehemently hate Israel, which includes those who support anti-Israel terrorists. An entire show, in July of 2006, was devoted to promoting Hezbollah, and all three of his guests lauded the terror group, one calling it “heroic.”
No longer with CAIR, today Bedier heads up a new organization. He is President of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council (THHRC), a volunteer position voted in by the group’s membership. And just as its name implies, the group’s mission is to advocate for the human rights of the community. Yet, with someone such as Bedier, one has to question how that is possible.
Speaking as the THHRC President, Bedier, earlier this month, appeared on Fox-13’s Your Turn to discuss the Mumbai attacks. During the program, he implied that America was responsible for the terrorist training camps located in Pakistan, in effect blaming the U.S. for the attacks. He stated, “[I]t goes back to who created those training camps, and it goes back to the United States’ involvement in that area, when it was convenient to support these militant groups when they were at war against the Soviets and supporting activity in Afghanistan.”
Bedier had been on Your Turn prior to this. On one of his appearances, in December of 2005, he uttered a statement that has since become notorious. When asked if it is immoral to associate with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), he replied, “To a certain degree. Now, before 1995 there was nothing immoral about it.” This, while PIJ, prior to 1995, had carried out five terrorist attacks, which included a suicide bombing, resulting in the murders of eight innocent people. As well, in May of 2004, when given the chance, Bedier refused to condemn PIJ as a terrorist organization.
Bedier’s position in the THHRC poses a troublesome conflict with the local Tampa government, as the city openly supports the group. In fact, the Mayor’s office has designated a liaison to the council. This has been a disturbing trend from Mayor Pam Iorio, who last month issued a Proclamation declaring November 15th “CAIR Day,” the fourth year in a row she had awarded CAIR such recognition.
Given Bedier’s extremist past, how could the local government continue to have a relationship with the THHRC? In good conscience, it can’t, and that is why it is this author’s opinion that the city of Tampa end its association with the group – at least until Bedier steps down or the THHRC membership seeks his removal.
Tampa needs to consider the interests and wellbeing of its citizens. It cannot do this, if it is supporting an entity whose leader is someone who propagates hatred and support for those who commit violent acts – in the guise of a religion, hidden behind the label of human rights.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.