Friday, February 17, 2012

Hassan Shibly's Letter to the Hillsborough County School Board

Dear School Board Members:

I wish to thank you for taking a strong stand against bigotry and prejudice. Time will certainly show that you were on the right side of history. Unlike those in our nation's history who made the mistakes of taking anti-Black, anti-Irish, anti-Catholic, ant-Jewish, or anti-Japanese positions only to later learn of their mistaken ways.

For virtually everyone of those minorities, narrow minded and misinformed conspiracy theorists claimed that those minorities had a secret agenda to take over and undermine our nation. Many in our history, like those that allowed the interment camps of the Japanese or the segregation of African Americans, were on the wrong side of history, and today we clearly see how wrong they were in their prejudice ways.

Yet I am proud to say that when your great-grandchildren ask you, "how did you respond to the witch-hunts against Muslims in the years post 9/11" You can proudly say that you were not intimated by false conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric and did not give in to bigotry. For that I am sure you will have a proud legacy. You will not be like those who today shamefully must tell their grandchildren that they did nothing to fight against segregation, anti-antisemitism, or other forms of bigotry that our nation faced throughout the 20th century. 

I have watched the footage of the school board meetings and am appalled by the utter lies and fabrications those poor individuals have made against me and my organization-they ascribed quotes to me that I never said, blamed my faith for the crimes done by a few, and twisted facts to suit their clear anti-Muslim agenda, amongst other ridiculous actions. The bigotry they have displayed has clearly shown the importance of continuing to offer our children a world class education. Thank you for bravely refusing to be intimidated by those who use misinformation to divide our community. No one who listens to the comments of the protests, reads their signs, or has a conversation with them can have any doubt that their problem is with Islam and Muslims as a whole, not a particular group or individual. 

CAIR Tampa is funded exclusively by grassroots donations from the Muslim community. I am a leading imam in the Florida Muslim community, leading prayer services at most of the major Tampa mosques. The community chose me and CAIR to represent them because of the faith and respect they have for me as a Muslim leader and CAIR's reputation for advocating for Muslim civil rights. Major Tampa area mosques continuously call me to lead the Friday prayer services, give sermons and spiritual talks, teach Islamic teachings, and represent them to the community. CAIR Tampa has over a dozen staff and interns, most of whom are not even Muslim, but believe in the cause of clearing misconceptions about Islam and defending American civil liberties. The Tampa Muslim community has the right to choose its own leaders and decide who speaks on their behalf. Mr. Kemple has no right to make that decision for the community and dictate to us as Muslims who may represent us, shame on him for attempting to do so!

Similar bigoted attacks happened against my good friend, Nezar Hamze, who is executive director of CAIR's Miami office, when he tried to join the Broward Republican Party Executive Committee last summer. The prejudice of those who opposed him because of his faith and his position in America's largest Muslim civil liberties organization, was clearly exposed by Comedy Centrals Daily Show with John Stuart. Please watch this clip for some good laughs:

Thank you again for not giving in to modern day witch-hunts and McCarthyism.

Many Thanks,
Imam Hassan Shibly, Esq.

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