Florida

Political clash in Florida town: ‘A horrible, offensive, Islamophobic mess.’

Hallandale Beach Commissioner Anabelle Lima-Taub, left, and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
Hallandale Beach Commissioner Anabelle Lima-Taub, left, and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

Hallandale Beach Commissioner Anabelle Lima-Taub threw gasoline on an already fiery national debate over Israeli-Palestinian relations when her Facebook post saying Muslim Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib might “blow up Capitol Hill” went viral.

Lima-Taub repeated and then justified her remarks by pointing to the Palestinian-American congresswoman’s position on Israel as evidence of a possible connection to terrorist organizations. Washington-based politicians including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have denounced Lima-Taub’s comments. Still, the commissioner isn’t without support on social media.

“It’s been a horrible, offensive, Islamophobic mess,” said Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana. Javellana said she’s concerned because hateful words lead to actions. “There were people in support of it [the post] who were extremely scary,” she said.

In a rare point of agreement, the Florida chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League both condemned Lima-Taub’s comments, labeling them “Islamophobic” and inappropriate for a public official tasked with representing all of her constituents.

“Public officials should be able to vigorously defend and oppose policy positions without resorting to bigotry and the vilification of an entire group,” stated a letter from the Anti-Defamation League to Lima-Taub on Friday. “Sharing and disseminating negative stereotypes like this — implying that all Muslims are, or have the potential to be, terrorists — is deeply offensive and has no place in our society.”

The league’s Florida branch called for an immediate apology, and reminded Lima-Taub of her “legal and moral duty” to all of the people she represents, including her Muslim constituents.

Earlier in the week, Wilfredo Ruiz, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida, said, “Xenophobic stereotypes must not be embraced by any elected official.”

Lima-Taub has said on Facebook she remains “unapologetic” about her comments. She has received messages of support from across the country, though no other politicians have publicly stood by her comments.

“Last time I checked, we still had freedom of expression in this country. Anyone who understands the nature of the personality cult that is Islam knows that freedom of expression is not inherent in that philosophy,” one person wrote to the city. “The torments that American citizens suffered at the hands of those Muslim Cultists were unspeakable. That is what they want for anyone who does not follow Sharia in this country.”

Others have attacked Hallandale Beach Commissioner Michele Lazarow, who is the primary sponsor of a resolution to officially censure Lima-Taub.

“Go back to N.Y. with your liberal bull****. We (The Natives of Fla) hate your kind with a passion go protect your Muslim scum friends up there,” Corey Lapierre wrote to Lazarow.

Lazarow has not responded to the messages directly.

“Hate begets hate,” Lazarow said. “While this situation has brought much of our community together, it has also brought out hateful people and despicable anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. It’s a shame that Commissioner Lima-Taub is putting our city through this ordeal.”

Lazarow and the other commissioners continue to demand an apology and to promote Hallandale Beach as an inclusive community for all residents.

The vast majority of the emails to Hallandale officials in recent days have called Lima-Taub’s comments bigoted and racist and demand a public apology. Some of the messages, coming from as far away as London and Chicago, went so far as to ask that Lima-Taub resign.

Many called on Mayor Joy Adams to take action to pressure Lima-Taub to resign. The mayor has remained silent on the issue. “I’m working right now so I can’t,” Adams told a Herald reporter who called for comment Friday.

Others offered more diplomatic solutions.

“You seem to think that any Palestinian American that supports Palestinian rights must be a radical Islamist and hater of Israel or worse — a terrorist,” wrote Fred Hadeed, a self-described Palestinian-American Christian. “If you would like to meet with Palestinian Americans in South Florida, I would gladly organize a meeting. I think you are simply afraid of what you don’t know. Perhaps a friendly meeting would help.”

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