A coalition of groups is urging the Hillsborough County School district to ban the executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on Islamic-Relations from speaking to students in the classroom.
Last November, a teacher invited Hassan Shibly to talk about his religion at Steinbrenner High School.
"We hope that from a young age we can teach the kids that 'hey, we have more in common than what divides us', so that they can grow up having a mutual respect for their classmates and as they grow up, their community as a whole," Shibly said.
Shibly says he discussed the origins of Islam and its basic principles. He says he also sought to break down stereotypes and misconceptions.
District Spokesman Steve Hegarty says Shibly's one-day visit is part of a broader world history lesson to give students a well-rounded view of how the world's major religions have affected history, as required by state education standards.
"They had a rabbi come in. They've had a Muslim come in. I think (the teacher) got a Catholic priest from her church that is going to be coming in later. I think they have a Buddhist coming in," Hegarty explained.
The coalition against Shibly's visit include the Tampa Tea Party, the Community Issues Council of Tampa Bay, The Report Card, Act For America, Eye on U.S. Education, Tampa Liberty Schools, and Tampa 912.
"CAIR is one of the organizations that uses a more subtle cultural Jihad approach to impose Sharia law," said Terry Kemple of the Community Issues Council.
The coalition believes that CAIR is linked to terror.
"They advocate, in effect, the overturn of the Constitution," said The Report Card's Bill Korach. "They want America to become a Muslim-dominant culture."
The coalition cites a federal terror-funding case, in which CAIR was investigated, but never charged. Both the Bush and Obama administrations completed reviews of the case and declined to prosecute.
As a result, the coalition calls CAIR an "unindicted coconspirator." According to Shibly, CAIR's Washington, D.C. chapter was named such at one point, but a judge ruled that the designation and the release of that designation was inappropriate, and violated CAIR's due process rights.
Shibly says calling CAIR an "unindicted coconspirator" is the same as calling someone an "innocent accused."
"If we had direct ties to terrorism, I would not have had the U.S. Attorney sitting next to me at the CAIR Florida banquet. I would not have had the mayor sitting next to me. I would not have been briefed by the FBI before it was made public that a suspected terrorist was apprehended in our city," said Shibly, referring to the recent arrest of alleged terror suspect Sami Osmakac of Pinellas County.
The FBI praised CAIR for its help in the investigation.
The coalition also accuses Shibly of supporting terror group Hezbollah. Shibly denies that and says his critics are only taking his words and twisting them.
Coalition members don't have children attending Hillsborough County Schools, although Kemple has grandchildren enrolled. Members planned to express their concerns to school board members during Tuesday's regular meeting.
Hegarty says students and teachers enjoyed Shibly's visit and the district has no plans to make changes.
Shibly, who is also an attorney, says the group's claims are slanderous and libelous. He says CAIR could file a lawsuit, but would rather put it funds toward promoting healthier Islamic-American relations.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?