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ANTISEMITISM WATCH

Several Muslim leaders protesting Biden at Michigan conference defended Hamas massacre

The 'Abandon Biden' event included officials with histories of antisemitic activism

Screenshot via Facebook

Hassan Shibly, former head of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, speaking on Saturday at the Abandon Biden conference in Dearborn, Mich.

A group of Islamic leaders who gathered on Saturday in Michigan to urge Muslim Americans to vote against President Joe Biden in 2024 because of his handling of the Israel-Hamas war included a coterie of controversial figures, including several who praised the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, one of whom was ousted from the leadership of a nonprofit due to accusations of harassment and abuse and one who has been sanctioned by Israel for supporting terrorism. 

The small group of activists, who met at a conference titled “Abandon Biden,” introduced themselves as leaders of Muslim communities in swing states including Florida, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. They professed that their greatest aim in 2024 will be to convince Muslims Americans to vote against Biden, arguing that his “complicity” in “genocide” in Gaza will stain his legacy. (Biden has supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, while cautioning it to try and limit civilian deaths.)

But many of the anti-Biden speakers have their own checkered pasts. 

“We are ready to mobilize the entire Florida Muslim community to abandon Joe,” said Hassan Shibly, who for a decade led the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations until he was forced to step down in 2021, after his estranged wife accused him of domestic abuse. After he offered his resignation, several former employees of his accused him of bullying and sexual misconduct. 

Since Oct. 7, Shibly has taken to social media to offer extreme opinions about Israel, calling the country “Zionist ISIS” and comparing Israel to Hitler. “Palestinian children in Gaza do not fear Israelis [sic] bombs any less than Jewish children feared Nazi gas chambers,” he posted on X. An image accompanying the post featured a swastika within a Jewish star, covered in blood, and the quote, “the irony of becoming what you once hated.”  

Khalid Turaani, an activist from Michigan, was sanctioned by Israel in 2020 for sitting on the board of IPALESTINE, a British organization that is affiliated with Hamas and is designated as a terror organization in Israel. 

Speaking to the media on Oct. 11, Turaani said the Oct. 7 Hamas attack “must be seen in the context of 75 years of ethnic cleansing,” noting that “history did not start on Oct. 7.”

“It would be misguided to think of these events as if somebody woke up on the morning of Oct. 7 and decided to do an incursion here or an attack there,” he said. 

Others at the conference also offered justifications for the Oct. 7 attacks. Arizona activist Hazim Nasaredden, who spoke at Saturday’s event, has called Hamas the Palestinian “resistance movement” in a May 2021 tweet. 

“​​Al-Aqsa storm is the inevitable consequence of continued Israeli oppression of the free men and women of Gaza,” Nasaredden wrote on Facebook on Oct. 8, using Hamas’ official name for the Oct. 7 attack. “I stand with my fellow brothers and sisters who continue to fight for the freedom of all Palestinians and more importantly the freeing of Masjid Al-Aqsa for every Muslim around the world.” 

Tom Facchine, an imam from upstate New York, said in a video posted on the TikTok channel of Utica Masjid, a mosque in Utica, N.Y., where he is the resident scholar, that he would offer “no equivocations, no apologies, no condemnations.” 

He then suggested that criticizing Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack is not necessary.

“You don’t criticize the table manners of a starving person, you let them eat, right? You want to talk about, ‘Well, they shouldn’t be doing things this way or they should be doing things that way.’ All right, get your boot off my neck, and then we’ll talk, right?” Facchine said. “It’s like, this occupation has been going on for however many years, stop the occupation and then we’ll talk. Then we can talk about table manners.” 

The speakers at Saturday’s event spoke about polling that showed strong Muslim support for Biden in the 2020 election. But some of the leaders have broken with Biden and Democrats at times, particularly on LGBTQ issues. Facchine has advocated against the Equality Act, a key Democratic legislative priority — the bill would expand federal civil rights protections to LGBTQ people. “Everything that Muslims have worked for in this country,” he said in a June 2023 video, “is under threat” if the bill passes. 

Shibly, from Florida, wrote on Facebook in 2009 that “all Abrahamic faiths clearly and unequivocally prohibit homosexuality.”

None of the activists at the conference said they would instead urge Muslims to vote for former President Donald Trump or other Republicans. 

“We’re going to teach the rest of this country that you do not have to have two options. You can have more than two options,” said Jaylani Hussein, who is from Minneapolis. “We haven’t made that decision.”

Exit polling conducted by CAIR found that 69% of Muslim voters voted for Biden in 2020. A recent poll commissioned by a Detroit progressive group found that just 16% of Arab and Muslim Democrats who voted for Biden in 2020 would support him if an election were held today. 

A spokesperson for the Biden campaign declined to comment. 

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