Hernando Today’s May 16 commentary “Were our planners pandering to Muslims in approving mosque?” by columnist John Herbert are comments heard normally from bigots “pandering” to the xenophobic members of our society.

Since the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there have been hundreds of violent acts targeting Muslim-Americans, only because of their faith. Islamophobic comments, like those repeated by Mr. Herbert, have the potential of inciting hate crimes and violence against Americans who happen to be Muslim.

For example, who can forget the recent arson attack on the Islamic Education Center of Tampa last month, or even the man who, in March of 2002, crashed a truck into the Tallahassee mosque, escaped and bragged about it at a local bar where he was later arrested.

Even more frightening are those who potentially become incited with misplaced revenge for 9/11. Combine that with fear-mongering rhetoric fanned by cheerleaders like Herbert, and we may be faced with those who intend to do harm to an entire community based solely on their faith.

A prime example, Dr. Robert J. Goldstein of Pinellas County; who in 2004 was convicted for planning out a terrorist attack with different types of explosives, machine guns and even grenade launchers at Florida mosques. He had compiled a list of 50 Islamic centers across the state where he planned to carry out the attacks describing his objective in a written “manifesto template” to “kill all ‘rags,’ ZERO residual presence, maximum effect.”

Locally, Herbert panders to the likes of Vilmar Tavares, who came to Mr. Herbert’s defense in another Hernando Today letter-to-the-editor published May 23, — “Islamic Terrorism is not political” — claiming that he was “appalled” that the right to free expression is now being called “hate speech” by so many people.

Tavares then used the opportunity to spew his own hatred and lies, claiming that a recent Pew research poll found that 25 out of 100 Muslims in America support terrorism. In fact the Pew poll found the opposite to be true, that 78 percent of the 1,050 Muslim-Americans surveyed said that suicide bombing is “never justified” and only 1 percent said it was “often justified.”

The same survey found that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject religious extremism and terrorism. The Pew poll also found that Muslims in this country are assimilated, have a good life, are well educated, have good jobs and believe in American values like hard work.

Ahmed Bedier is executive director and Ramzy Kilic is civil rights coordinator
of the Tampa Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


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