Thursday, September 20, 2012

Activist challenges Terry Kemple on anti-CAIR campaign

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Terry Kemple
  • Terry Kemple
A relatively somnolent candidates forum held in the V.M. Ybor area on Wednesday night turned on a dime when activist Laila Abdelaziz confronted Christian conservative Terry Kemple — a candidate running to defeat 20-year-incumbent Carol Kurdell for the Hillsborough County School Board, District 7 seat.

Kemple has been leading an effort to have the school board overturn its policy of allowing representatives from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to speak in schools, after Hassan Shibley from the Tampa chapter spoke at Steinbrenner High last year.

Kemple and others contend that CAIR is affiliated with terrorist groups, using as a primary source the fact that the U.S. Government named it an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 Texas case.

Abdelaziz asked Kemple why he continues to make incendiary comments about the Muslim community, calling the time the school board has spent on the issue a waste of taxpayers' money.

Kemple objected to Abdelaziz's premise, saying, "Our concern and battle has never been about the Muslim people, it's about an organization called CAIR."

He went on to read provocative quotes from current or former members of CAIR, trying to illustrate how the group is out of the mainstream.

Abdelaziz is a member of Emerge U.S.A, an activist group trying to get people from Muslim, Arab and Southeast Asian groups more involved in the political process. She immediately responded to Kemple, reciting quotes that she said Kemple made in the past, such as that CAIR is a terrorist organization.

Kemple denied some of the quotes, emphasizing that he would condemn bigotry against anybody from any community.

Kurdell, who sat next to Kemple, said she's never been about bigotry, but she understands "some of the reservations" about the controversy, referring to family members who have served in the military. But she said it hasn't been hard to resist Kemple's demand.

"If I said no to one organization, I'd have to save no to all organizations," she said, including the PTA in the list of such groups

Kemple's battle against the school board climaxed last week on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, when he hosted a raucous news conference that featured noted Islamic critics from around the country, including Frank Gaffney.

After the debate, Abdelaziz told CL that those out of town speakers, "aren't going to feel the pain of the repercussions of their language." She said people reading about the issue might be able to brush it off as not affecting them, but she hopes they care about what unrelenting hatred does to members of her community.

"Whether I was a Muslim-American or not, I believe that would really mean a lot to me. Since I do work in the Muslim-American community, I feel the pain of people who are affecting by this kind of language, and I just think it's enough," she said.

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