A group of Florida residents is demanding that the recently appointed Broward County sheriff's deputy, who is Muslim, be fired. The protest over Nezar Hamze's appointment has sparked complaints by Muslim and civil rights leaders that the calls for his removal are rooted in anti-Muslim bigotry.
Hamze previously worked with the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a nationwide Muslim civil rights organization. The activists who want Hamze removed are also calling for Sheriff Scott Israel to resign for appointing Hamze in the first place.
“I hate Islam. Islam is evil,” anti-Muslim activist David Rosenthal said, according to Local 10. “Ideally, I would ban Islam in the United States. I am against Shariah-compliant Muslims having any position in government, law enforcement or the schools.”
A local radio host has joined in the fight, as well as a congressional candidate. In October, dozens of activists, including tea party members, held a rally calling on both individuals to resign. “What the hell is going on with Scott Israel that he hires a terrorist?” Tom Trento, an anti-Islamic activist, said at the rally, according to Raw Story.
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) December 19, 2015
Hamze has not been allowed to comment on the case, but Wilfredo Ruiz, who worked with Hamze at CAIR, said the uproar can be attributed to hate. “Like him, thousands of other Muslims in America today are wearing the uniform. … I was, myself, a naval officer,” he said. ”Nobody from a desk can tell me what patriotism is when I have worn my uniform.”
Opponents of Hamze's appointment point to past controversies with CAIR, and allege that the group has supported the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip. CAIR Florida has never been the subject of terror-related charges, and Hamze has been a vocal opponent of extremism. He has also worked with authorities to combat radicalization in Muslim communities.
The controversy comes as Muslim civil rights groups say there has been a noticeable spike in anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crimes. Two recent studies have found that attacks against Muslims have tripled since the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris and another last month in San Bernardino, California.