Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has declined to continue a four-year tradition held by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) known as CAIR Day.
“We issued the proclamations in the past based on the best available information. And now we’re not going to issue proclamations based on best available information,” Iorio said to the St. Petersburg Times.
The Times reported that CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Texas trial of a Muslim charity that had five of its officers convicted on charges of funneling more than $12 million to the Palestinian group Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S.
The CAIR day celebration last year involved 600 hundred active Muslims meeting in a convention center, discussing what it means to be a Muslim. The previous proclamations by the mayor were a hopeful sign of growing religious tolerance, but her decision this year may be a step back.
Hamas has been stamped with a malignant label, and anything possibly associated with the group is looked down upon, without any recognition of the situation’s complexity. The group controls the Parliament of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the democratic government controlling Gaza and the West Bank, but the executive branch and security services are controlled by rival party Fatah.
Hamas has little control over the government, and Fatah is violating parliamentary law, arresting and interrogating suspected Hamas members without trial, according to the New York Times. The political situation in Palestine is chaotic, and the flames of this chaos are fueled by the impoverished state of the Palestinian people.
President Barack Obama recently gave a speech in Cairo reflecting on the Middle East. He said, “Let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable … America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.”
The budget of the PA is supplemented by taxes collected in Palestine, which are held by the Israelis and then handed back to the PA. Israel has on several occasions held the funds as a form of punishment for Palestine.
The plight of the Palestinian people at the hands of Christian and Jewish Europeans has gained them significant sympathy from the entire Islamic World. Just as with any population whose suffering is understood globally, relief aid and help are continuously sent to the Palestinian people. Many may feel that such donations would best be handled by those who have direct connection to the Palestinian people, and in many cases Hamas is seen as the appropriate organization.
Israeli scholar Reuven Paz told the Council on Foreign Relations that “Approximately 90 percent of (Hamas’) work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities.”
The council reports that much of its $70 million budget goes to schools, orphanages, mosques, health care clinics, soup kitchens and sports leagues.
Many times what one person considers a terrorist another may consider a freedom fighter. Violence is criticized by most societies unless it is conducted in a way they consider just and necessary. George Washington was likely considered a terrorist by the British, but was seen as the ultimate patriot to the revolutionary Americans.
Hamas’ charter states that, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
This is an extremely inflammatory statement and rightfully should spark fear and defensiveness from Israel. However, can it be proven that donations to Hamas support violence and not Palestinian welfare?
Iorio ended a peaceful tradition of celebrating the diversity of religions in the Tampa Bay area because sympathy for the Palestinian people was expressed though donations to Hamas.
The mayor is putting her political career ahead of her character and playing to Americans’ mistrust and cynicism toward the Islamic faith.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring history.