Seeks to increase the political influence of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans
Some of EMERGE USA's leaders have ties to radical Islamist organizations
EMERGE USA (an acronym for Empowering, Motivating, & Educating Resourceful Grassroots Entities) was founded as a nonprofit corporation in November 2006, under its original name—the Center for Voter Advocacy. EMERGE's mission is “to politically empower and train its constituents to be effective community organizers and work in coalitions to advance beneficial policies and legislation that help protect and enforce the rights afforded by the United States Constitution”—particularly on behalf of "under-represented communities like American Muslims."
EMERGE advances this mission by way of three major programs:
*Emerging Voters: Through this initiative, EMERGE organizes voter registration campaigns, absentee ballot drives, early voting events, and opportunities for candidates and elected officials to interact with community members.
*Emerging Data: EMERGE maintains an extensive database of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian-American registered voters residing in Florida, and uses email blasts to “inform and educate” these people about a wide range of domestic policy and legislative initiatives. Further, the organization teaches them how to influence their representatives to “adopt appropriate positions that advance favorable legislation.”
*Emerging Leaders: Through leadership-training workshops that are given in numerous Florida locations, EMERGE seeks “to create an infrastructure of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans who are empowered and can directly impact public policy”—not only as voters but also as organizers and as candidates for public office.
EMERGE's executive director, Nauman Sabit Abbasi, is the president of public relations for the Islamic Foundation of South Florida (IFSF), a radical mosque that seeks to “establish a powerful base for the growth of Islam in North America,” and whose youth leader once wrote on the Internet: “[Y]es, Allah ... has Decreed that we will over-take the World in numbers…” Abbasi's Facebook page urged to people to “support the true leadership of the world who are at war with Zoinists.”
The vice chairman and co-founder of EMERGE is Khurrum Wahid, a practicing South Florida attorney and a registered agent of IFSF. According to the Florida Bar, Wahid “has defended individuals charged with allegedly committing or conspiring to commit acts of terrorism…” Some of Wahid’s clients, past and present, include: Rafiq Abdus Sabir, who received a 25-year prison sentence for conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda; Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an al-Qaeda member who was sentenced to life in prison for plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush; and Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, convicted of conspiring with others to funnel at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban for the purpose of facilitating the murder of American troops overseas.
Wahid, who spoke at a May 2010 event sponsored by the Islamic Circle of North America, once created a legal fund for Tashnuba Hayder, a girl whom the FBI had identified as a potential suicide bomber. Considered an imminent threat to the security of the United States, the girl was later deported to Bangladesh.
In 2011, Wahid himself was placed on a U.S. government terrorist watch list.
Prior to joining EMERGE, Wahid was a legal advisor for the national office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). He also served a stint as director of CAIR’s Florida chapter, where his predecessor was Foad Farahi, a radical imam whom the FBI has suspected of dealing with such al-Qaeda operatives as Jose Padilla and Adnan Gulshair el-Shukrijumah.
Another key EMERGE official is field coordinator Laila Abdelaziz, who, during a January 2010 town hall meeting in Tampa, Florida, asked President Barack Obama: “[W]hy have we [the United States] not condemned Israel and Egypt’s human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people, and yet we continue supporting them financially with billions of dollars from our tax dollars?” In November 2012, when Israel invaded Gaza in an effort to stop Hamas from continuing to fire rockets into Israeli territory—over 2000 rockets in less than one year—Abdelaziz tweeted, “Don’t worry ya Gaza, we’re working hard for you in Florida.” Before joining EMERGE, Abdelaziz was the project coordinator for United Voices of America, a group founded and headed by Ahmed Bedier, former executive director of CAIR's Tampa chapter.
EMERGE co-founder and former executive director Farooq Mitha has spoken at a number of events sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America; participated in a February 2011 event sponsored by the Center for American Progress; and served in the Obama administration as Special Assistant to the Director of the Department of Defense Office of Small Business Programs. In May 2009, Mitha penned an article stating, "It is impossible to imagine sustainable peace in the [Middle East] region without at least the implicit cooperation of" the increasingly prominent Hezbollah and Hamas.
The Palestinian activist Rasha Mubarak has served as EMERGE's central Florida regional field coordinator since October 2011. (In January 2009, Mubarak had organized a march in Orlando to condemn Israel for waging a war against Hamas in Gaza. In November 2012, she organized an anti-Israel demonstration where she stated, “Israel has a right to exist, but not as they presently do…”)
Other notable EMERGE leaders include Shell Oil project manager A.J. Durrani, who created an organization that produced more than two-dozen Muslim delegates for the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election; Houston-based engineer/community organizer Arif Ghafur, who works to increase the political activism of American Muslims; and Zeba Khan, who in 2008 founded Muslim Americans for Obama, an online national grassroots movement.
Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was scheduled to be a keynote speaker for EMERGE's annual fundraising banquet on April 21, 2012. (In March, however, Wasserman Schultz quietly cancelled that appearance after EMERGE's radical ties were exposed in the media.) The RSVP contact for the EMERGE event was Rasheed Shihada, whose Facebook site, as of February 2012, featured not only a lengthy anti-Christian diatribe he had written, but also a video expressing support for Khader Adnan, whom Israel had imprisoned as a “senior member” of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
On April 20, 2013, Emerge sponsored a “benefit dinner” where U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison was the featured speaker.