Michael Van Sickler | Tampa Bay Times | In Print: January 15, 2012 | [Full Article]
It's an event with a name that sounds inclusive enough: "Liberty & Justice for All: A Rally for America's Future."
Scheduled for Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. at North Straub Park at 400 Bayshore Drive NE, it's organized by neurosurgeon David McKalip, a tea party activist who plans to run for City Council next year.
McKalip is spending $5,000 to hold the event, which he said is independent from the tea party and is not meant to serve as a platform for his council run.
While McKalip has infused the rally with a healthy dose of religion, specifically the Christian variety, he said everyone is invited...
...Hassan Shibly, [CAIR Tampa's] executive director, doesn't think the event is meant to unify. He points to Richard Swier, a religious leader who was invited to speak....
...Swier wrote "we are not fighting a war on terror or Al Qaeda. Rather we are fighting a protracted war against shariah Islam."
Shibly called Swier's views libelous and defamatory and said they had no place at a so-called unity rally.
"If they want to hold a rally, they have every right to do that," Shibly said. "But it's very irresponsible to invite speakers who are promoting bigotry and religious hatred...."
... But Shibly said it's hard to believe the event welcomes everyone if a speaker like Swier is featured.
"We're not going to protest it," Shibly said. "It's more of an issue of responsibility. They are alienating and making enemies of a substantial part of the Florida community. It's un-American. Our goal right now is to work together as Americans, and I don't think it's productive if you have speakers who don't believe in the freedom of religion and tolerance."