On Sunday, September 24, 2006, Ahmed Bedier led a delegation of Muslims from his organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in a visit to the St. Paul’s Catholic Church of St. Petersburg, Florida. At the end of the visit, Bedier handed a check for $5000 to the pastor of
St. Paul’s for the repair of churches that had been damaged recently in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip, over one sentence spoken by the Pope. The money was for a good cause, but accepting the money came with a price.
Pope Benedict XVI, in a speech he gave during a trip to Germany on September 12, quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor as saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” This set off a firestorm across the Muslim world, resulting in violence. Enraged crowds took their frustrations out on symbols of Christianity. This included the murder of an Italian nun and the firebombing of churches located in the
West Bank and
Taking advantage of this sensitive situation was CAIR, an organization that pawns itself off as a “civil liberties” group, while having numerous ties to Islamic extremism, including links to individuals convicted for terrorist crimes. At a press conference, on Thursday, September 21, Ahmed Bedier, the Director of CAIR’s
Tampa office, and Rev. Robert Gibbons, the Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, held aloft a large poster-board check for $5000 bearing CAIR’s insignia. The money was said to be for the half-dozen churches that had been attacked, five of which were firebombed and shot at, the other doused with gasoline and set aflame.
It was a disquieting scene as Ahmed Bedier stood side by side with a high-ranking Diocese official. Exactly two months prior to the event, Bedier hosted a radio show where all three of his guests lauded Hezbollah, a group that is found on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. One of the guests went as far as to label the group “heroic.” One must question if Rev. Gibbons was aware of this fact.
The check, which CAIR described as “seed money,” was made out to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a humanitarian relief program run by the Catholic Church, based in
New York City. Additionally, a CNEWA fund was created in CAIR’s name, to raise further monies.
In order to make a donation to the fund, people have been asked to forward their checks to the CNEWA office under the title, “CAIR Palestine Damaged Churches.” The term “
Palestine” denotes statehood and seems to have been injected into the fund’s address purely for political purposes. If that is the case, the Catholic Church is being used for nothing more than to make a political statement, and being as such and the fact that the church accepted the money, the implication is that the church is in full agreement with the statement.
A situation similar to this occurred in October of 2001, when Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a CAIR financier, offered New York City a check for $10 million dollars to go towards relief efforts, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The check was rejected by the former Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, on the grounds that the money was attached to a political statement made by Bin Talal, concerning
America’s relationship to the Mid East.
While visiting the wreckage, Bin Talal called the attacks “a tremendous crime.” He added, “We are here to tell
America and to tell
New York that
Saudi Arabia is with the
United States wholeheartedly.” However, in a written statement handed out by his publicist, the Prince had another message for
America. He stated, “At times like this one, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack. I believe the government of the
United States of America should re-examine its policies in the
Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause.”
Mayor Giuliani responded by stating, “There is no moral equivalent for this attack. The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification when they slaughtered 5,000, 6,000 innocent people. Not only are those statements wrong, they’re part of the problem.” He said the statements were “highly irresponsible and very, very dangerous.”
Rudy Giuliani showed integrity, when he returned the check. The Catholic Diocese could have done the same. Instead, they kept the money and all of the extremist baggage that went along with it, while CAIR used the church to gain legitimacy and manipulated the media to gain publicity.
When Ahmed Bedier led his delegation to
St. Paul’s, it was not to have dialogue with Catholics, as CAIR had stated in press releases and elsewhere. It just appeared that way, because, while Bedier acted like he was a friend to the Catholic community, the following day something occurred that would severely contradict the “friendship.”
On September 25, on WTVT-Tampa’s ‘Your Turn with Kathy Fountain,’ Bedier lashed out at the Pope, the figure whose picture adorns the website of the CNEWA, the group CAIR is raising money through. Bedier angrily stated, “He said his intention was to start a dialogue. Well, if you want to start a dialogue with someone, you don’t start it off by slapping them across the face and calling them names and say, ‘Well, now let’s talk.’” It seems CAIR was acting in the same disrespectful manner towards Catholicism’s most revered, as it was accusing the Pope of acting towards Islam’s most revered — except in this case, while extremists across the world were screaming “Death to the Pope,” Catholics were embracing them by taking their money.