There is good reason to suspect that a pillar of the Muslim community in South Florida, who sits on the boards of many civil rights groups and charities, is actually a member of Hamas, the terrorist organization ruling the Gaza Strip. Sofian Zakkout, the founding president of the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), was born and partly raised in Gaza, which he has referred proudly to as "my nation, my hometown."
His fondness for his birthplace, however, is not what is worrisome about Zakkout. It is, rather, that he has spent decades cloaking himself in a veil of respectability, while actively promoting violent Hamas propaganda, including virulently anti-Semitic speech.
To grasp how dubious a character Zakkout is, one need only compare AMANA's self-described mission – and Zakkout's positions, for example, in the Florida State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, the Florida Regional Interfaith/Interagency Emergency Network in Disaster, the Miami Dade County Citizen Corps and even the Jewish-Arab Dialogue -- with his activism on behalf of Hamas.
On Amana's Facebook page, the group, established in 1992, states:
"Our mission at AMANA is to make our communities stronger, safer, and best prepared to respond to the danger of Islamophobia and the threats of terrorism, hate crimes, public health issues and disasters of all kinds (may Allah forbid). Our mission is to provide a better understanding of Islam to Muslims and information on Islam and Muslims to non Muslims. Our mission is to build more understanding, more knowledge and respect between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities.
"It is important to work with other community leaders with no exception of race, color, religion and origin hand by hand so that our country the United States of America will be a safer and more secure place to live in."
its goal is:
"to make our communities stronger, safer, and best prepared to respond to the danger of Islamophobia and the threats of terrorism, hate crimes, public health issues and disasters of all kinds (may Allah forbid)..., to provide a better understanding of Islam to Muslims and information on Islam and Muslims to non-Muslims..., [and] to build more understanding, more knowledge and respect between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities."
In addition, according to a Harvard University Pluralism Project overview, "AMANA does not think Muslims have any problem with other religious groups, such as Jews or Christians, but rather appreciates and supports each other."
Yet Zakkout's social media feeds are rife with hate-filled posts against non-Muslims, particularly Jews. His Facebook page, for instance, is littered with Hamas logos and photos of its operatives and leaders, including arch-terrorist founders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, and deceased bomb-maker Yehiya Ayyash.
Over a picture he shared in February 2015 of Yassin and Rantisi together, Zakkout wrote (in Arabic):
"It is an obligation to kill those who left our religion. It is an obligation to kill those who fight our religion and to intimidate our enemies and the enemies of the religion."
A few months earlier, in August 2014, Zakkout declared on Facebook, "Hamas is in my heart and on my head," adding that "America has been contaminated by some Jews."
A year before that, in July 2014, Zakkout organized a pro-Hamas rally outside the Israeli Consulate in Miami. A video of the event shows an elated Zakkout smiling as protesters repeatedly scream, "We are Hamas!" Zakkout then posted photos of the demonstration on Facebook, with the caption: "Thank God, every day we conquer the American Jews like our conquests over the Jews of Israel!"
More recently, in April 2017, Zakkout posted a graphic of all the Palestinian terrorist factions interlocking arms, around an image of Israel draped in a Palestinian flag -- an image he has also shared several times in the past.
Two months later, in June 2017, he attacked the Saudi foreign minister -- and his "Zionist government" -- for accusing Qatar of supporting Palestinian jihad, waged by Hamas. "This sucker doesn't know we defend the remaining Palestinian lands," he wrote. That same month, he posted: "It is no shame for your enemy [the Jews] to enter your homeland by force... The shame is to let them leave alive."
Statements such as these, which incite to violence not only against Jews, but all "infidels," including Muslims who denounce terrorism, run counter to Zakkout's self-professed peaceful and philanthropic aims "to build more understanding... between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities."
No matter how abhorrent hypocrisy and love of Hamas may be, however -- especially when exhibited by a respected American community leader -- neither is criminal. Even the definition of incitement on social media is a matter of controversy. It is, nevertheless, illegal in the U.S. to be an active member of Hamas, which was declared a terrorist organization in 1995 by then-President Bill Clinton, and designated as such by the State Department in 1997.
The question is, then, whether Sofian Zakkout's attachment to Hamas is "merely" emotional, or whether he is an official member of the terrorist organization. All evidence points to the latter.
The question is whether Sofian Zakkout's attachment to Hamas is "merely" emotional, or whether he is an official member of the terrorist organization. Pictured above: Unidentified Hamas gunmen in Gaza City, in 2006. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
It is time for the FBI to investigate Zakkout and his activities, and for all the groups that provide him an ill-deserved virtuous reputation to recognize him for the threat he poses to the coexistence and "understanding" he purports to be promoting.
If it emerges that Zakkout is a member of Hamas, he should not be permitted to continue his pernicious activities in America, while prospering in the process.
Joe Kaufman was the 2016 Republican nominee for United States House of Representatives in Florida's 23rd Congressional District. He is an expert in the fields of counter-terrorism, foreign affairs and energy independence for America. Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.