Ahmed Bedier, the Communications Director for the Florida Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Florida) and the Director of CAIR’s Tampa office, was being featured in a panel discussion on U.S. security and civil liberties in Miami, so we hopped in the car and headed south. The speakers’ panel, which took place June 18, 2005, was being sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Besides Bedier, the event included a Florida State Representative, someone from Homeland Security, an ACLU rep and a Haitian advocate.
Each participant took his/her turn at the podium to speak. You could tell, by the reactions from the crowd to the various speakers, where the audience’s sympathies lied. While Bedier, the ACLU rep and the Hatian advocate received much applause, the State Representative got a couple polite laughs and the Homeland Security agent found mostly cordial silence. This was basically a CAIR-skewed audience.
Bedier’s speech was a rail against the Patriot Act. He stated, “The editors of Esquire Magazine recently wrote, ‘If there’s one thing that always comes out of a terrible tragedy, it’s really dumb legislation.’” He said that “Muslims in America have been made the scapegoats in the witch-hunt that ensued [after 9/11].” He blamed September 11th on the U.S. government. He stated, “The bottom line is the Patriot Act is not working. And to simply give the power to renew it – it’s not the tools. The tools are you have to have better intelligence. The people that failed on 9/11 was the government.”
After the speeches, it was announced that the panel was going to take questions. I didn’t waste a moment; I quickly made my way to the mike up front.
KAUFMAN: “This question is for Ahmed Bedier from CAIR. When the media looks for a quote concerning Sami Al-Arian, they go to you. My question is, how did you become the spokesperson for the leader of the North American faction of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, one of the co-founders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad? And if [Al-Arian] is found guilty in the trial he is in right now in Tampa – where you’re from – will you, if he is found guilty, will you then still like this man and support him?
BEDIER: “Was that a question?”
KAUFMAN: “Yes it was. It was two questions. How did you become his spokesman, and if he’s found guilty, will you still support him and like this man?
BEDIER: [pauses] “I don’t think that’s the topic of discussion today.”
KAUFMAN: “Well, this is about security, and he certainly has been someone that has harmed the security of the United States. He is the North American leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and you are his spokesman.”
BEDIER: “That’s not true. I’m not his spokesman.”
KAUFMAN: “You have acted as his spokesman to the media. The media comes to you. Why do you refuse to answer that question? Are you afraid of the answer?”
BEDIER: “I already answered the question. I said it’s not the topic of discussion, I’m not his spokesperson, and I’m the spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. [noticeably angry] So, if you don’t understand English, that is the answer.”
KAUFMAN: “Why would you not answer that question?
MODERATOR: “Excuse me, but I believe the panelist has given you the answer that he’s gonna be providing today.”
KAUFMAN: “I think I know the answer.”
BEDIER: [flippantly] “Then, you shouldn’t ask the question.”
I went back to my seat. Bedier was obviously upset about this exchange. Anger was written all over his face. He let out, “DUMB MORONS, HERE!” Coming from him, that’s like the greatest compliment.
Next, it was my colleague’s turn. She started with a statement and then proceeded to ask Bedier why CAIR was part of a lawsuit for the murder of FBI agent John O’neill on September 11th? To that Bedier answered, “You might want to ask law enforcement. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Certainly, Bedier knew what my colleague was talking about. He’d have to be a “dumb moron” not to know that his organization is currently the defendant in a 9/11 lawsuit. But as my experience has shown in the past, with respect to CAIR, it’s okay to lie.
And yes, Ahmed Bedier has acted as Sami Al-Arian’s spokesman. One Google search on the internet of both their names provides over 200 results… mostly news stories containing quotes from Bedier about Al-Arian and his legal troubles. He was even the motivating force in trying to get Al-Arian’s trial moved out of Tampa! According to The Tampa Tribune, Bedier “said he was disappointed to learn a jury had been chosen. While most people in Tampa are nice, he said, they have seen years of media coverage portraying Al-Arian in a bad light.”
Bedier’s responses to our questions are characteristic of the way he normally approaches those that pose tough questions to him. His exchange with Sean Hannity on FOX NEWS’ Hannity & Colmes is a prime example.
HANNITY: “Now, CAIR has been known as a very controversial group over the years, correct? Didn't CAIR take the position about Sheikh Rahman, the guy in the first World Trade Center bombing? Did you not take a strong position on that?”
BEDIER: “No, we didn't take such positions. CAIR is known as America's largest civil rights organization. We're a mainstream organization. We work with all levels of the government, from the White House all the way down to the city council.”
HANNITY: “Did you not have a spokesman for your group at one time, a guy by the name of Royer that was on your staff that was convicted?”
BEDIER: “I think several years ago we had that individual in our group. And if you're [insinuating] that somehow we’re responsible for the actions or behavior of the individuals after they left our organization, that would be similar to somebody that worked for FOX five years ago and then commits a crime and FOX would be responsible for it.”
HANNITY: “I’m saying that the group has been known as a controversial group. You also have, and this has been well documented...”
BEDIER: “I would not say that we're controversial at all.”
HANNITY: “…well documented, two ex-FBI counterterrorism chiefs have had some very bad things to say about your organization. I don't know them to be true. But you cannot say that CAIR is not a controversial group. It is a controversial group. The position that some had taken about Sheikh Rahman are controversial. Are you denying that?”
BEDIER: “I'm denying that -- what you're saying, that we're a controversial group. CAIR is one of the fastest growing American organizations.”
HANNITY: I don't want the spin. Did you not take controversial positions on these high-profile cases? Yes or no?
BEDIER: “We are a civil rights organization, and we need to take positions...”
Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman was the ringleader of the group involved in the 1993 bombing of the world trade center. CAIR included the trial against him in its 1996 list of “incidents of anti-Muslim bias and violence.” Randal Todd “Ismail” Royer received 20 years in prison for “conspiring with a foreign terrorist group to engage in jihadist combat in foreign nations friendly to the United States.” According to Royer himself, he worked for CAIR in 1994, and then from 1997 to 2001.
Ahmed Bedier’s answers to Sean Hannity were lies. The rest of Bedier’s responses were, as Hannity put it, “spin.”
At the League of Women Voters event, in a following audience question concerning what the community can do about the Patriot Act, Bedier surmised of an America with a doomed future and spoke of a pending attack against the Jews. He stated, “Yes, the room is full today, but there are many Floridians out there. Most of them know nothing about the Patriot Act. They don’t care, because it’s not affecting them. But it’s affecting us today, especially the Muslims, the Arabs, the Hatians, the immigrants. But it’s gonna affect you in the future. It’s gonna affect the Democrats, the Green Party. And these same laws will silence anybody who opposes the government in the future. That’s where the danger is at. That’s why it’s very important to get in now. The Sunset Provisions are gonna sunset for a reason. Congress put in place the sunset, for reason because they were dangerous. Now, they want to put ‘em permanent, and that can be very dangerous! Because as it’s, you know, today it’s our turn, tomorrow it could be the Jews the next day. It’s happened before [pause] to the Jews. It’ll happen again [pause] if this stuff, you know, is not put on hold.”
After the event was over, I went up to Bedier to grill him some more. One of his oversized lackeys, Suhai, patted me on the shoulder and said that, thanks to me, he was even more fervent in his cause. During the event, Bedier had motioned towards Suhai to bring him a camera, so he could take pictures of me and my colleague. Funny, when I asked Suhai if he was part of CAIR, he looked at me with a straight face and said “No.”
I started to converse with Bedier. Of course, a one way conversation.
KAUFMAN: “Ahmed, what do you think about the IAP (Islamic Association for Palestine) losing that $156 million dollar lawsuit – the parent organization of CAIR?”
BEDIER: [no answer]
KAUFMAN: “How come you said you didn’t know about the O’Neill lawsuit?”
BEDIER: [no answer]
In Bedier’s silence, I knew the truth – that Bedier and his organization CAIR have strived to create a false image of a very sinister agenda. They attempt to make the public believe that their actions are actually helping Americans, when in reality they are destroying America from within. They have learned to work our own system against us. And until groups such as the League of Women Voters and others stop inviting them to participate in their functions, good-hearted citizens will continue to get fooled by what CAIR says and remain ignorant of what CAIR really stands for and the groups of which CAIR came from.
Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the host of The Politics of Terrorism radio show.