- Florida Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
Altaf Ali has been the Florida Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) since 2000.
During an October 11, 2001 guest appearance on a radio program, Ali wavered on the question of whether or not the victims who had died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 could be classified as innocents whose killings were unjustified. He was asked that question directly, by both the program host and a fellow guest, a total of ten times before he begrudgingly stopped evading it and answered in the affirmative. Noticeably angry by then, Ali asked one of the questioners (his fellow guest) whether he was Jewish. When the guest replied that he was in fact Jewish, Ali retorted “No wonder!” Then, charging that his questioners were attacking him unfairly, he decided to cut short his participation in the interview and left the studio.
In 2003 Ali was hired by the Diversity & Cultural Outreach department of the Broward County (Florida) School Board to provide diversity training to school personnel — a course of study that included instruction about anti-Semitism.
In August 2003 Ali gave the welcome address at an event keynoted by former U.S. Congressman Paul Findley, who lamented what he characterized as a post-9/11 spike in bias crimes against Muslims in the United States. Alleging that America had responded to 9/11 by trampling on the civil liberties of Muslims, Ali asserted that many Muslims had begun “to question the phrase ‘Liberty and Justice’ which is a cornerstone of this great society.” “Some of us [Muslims],” he added, “have become so disheartened by some of the atrocities that have taken place, that they have returned to their homeland.”
Also in 2003, Ali used a joint press conference with the FBI to cast doubt on what he depicted as the coerced confessions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of 9/11. “Has he [Mohammed] been deprived of sleep?” Ali asked. “Food? We have no idea, and they [the U.S. government] won’t tell us what measures they have taken to elicit this information. Yet, they are willing to … label this man public enemy Number One.”
Ali also has publicly defended the reputation of Shaikh Abdur-Rahman Al-Sudais, chief cleric of the Grand Mosque in Mecca who has described Jews as “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the killers of prophets, and the grandsons of monkeys and pigs.” Ali calls Al-Sudais an individual worthy of great respect, someone he (Ali) has “never heard … say anything hateful.”
In April 2007, while a jury was being selected for the upcoming trial of accused Islamic terrorist Jose Padilla, Ali called it a “travesty” that the defendant’s religion would be an issue raised in the courtroom. “When you put someone on trial, it’s not their religion on trial,” he said, explaining that Arabic words like “jihad” tended to viscerally evoke negative connotations that could prejudice jurors against Muslim defendants.
In May 2007 Ali reported that he had recently received an anonymous death threat. “We’ve seen acts against Muslims escalating,” he said. “It used to be that many of the complaints were about discrimination against Muslims, the wrongful firing of Muslim workers. Stones being thrown through the windows of mosques, vandalism. But in the past six months, we’ve seen a severe escalation.
On other occasions, Ali has similarly complained that it has been “open season” on Muslims since the 9/11 attacks.