South Florida Muslim community leaders call for ceasefire, peace in Israel and Gaza

SUNRISE, Fla. – Local leaders of the Muslim community expressed their deep concern with the recent spike of hate crimes in South Florida and across the country, as well as the ongoing violence in the Middle East at a news conference in Sunrise Thursday.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, believe South Floridians who have lost loved ones in Israel’s air strikes are too scared to speak out and fear retribution if they plan to raise awareness about civilian Palestinians who are in the crossfire of Israeli air strikes.

Leaders of the Muslim community in South Florida told Local 10 News they are worried about messages on social media that express concern for civilians, but disregard messaging that expresses concern about Palestinian civilians who are also caught in the crossfire of the Israel-Hamas War.

It comes after CAIR said it was “unacceptable” for the Biden administration to continue refusing to seek a ceasefire in Gaza despite the fact that many American travelers and hostages are under Israeli bombardment that has already killed over 5,000 Palestinians and 2000 children.

“We’re here today to give a voice to a people that have no voice,” said Samir Kakli, executive director of the South Florida Muslim Federation. “The people of Gaza, they are human beings.”

As Israel continues to fight Hamas, locally, both sides have been affected.

“We came here to stand together to uphold universal human dignity,” said Kakli.

Kakli and other Muslim faith leaders are saying many South Florida families that are grieving the loss of loved ones in Gaza and are too afraid to come forward.

Abdullah Jaber, Executive Director for CAIR Florida, expressed frustration on how many other families lost in family members in different air strikes.

“The first family has lost 48 members,” he said. “The second family, 17 were killed in two separate air strikes.”

“There is a lot of fear of retaliation,” said Kakli.

Kakli believes that the voice of others can condemn Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel and the death of Gaza civilians.

On the world stage this week, the U.S. has been working to build support for what it calls “humanitarian pauses.”

The Security Council Wednesday failed to adopt either of two competing draft resolutions — one from the United States, the other from the Russian Federation — addressing the raging war and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

In the first vote, the United States’ text failed by a vote of 10 in favor to 3 against (China, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates), with 2 abstentions (Brazil, Mozambique), owing to the negative vote of a permanent Council member.” 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraged Tuesday the implementation of “humanitarian pauses’' in the Israel-Hamas war, though the Biden administration said that doesn’t mean a ceasefire, which it believes would benefit the militants.

“We know that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people and Palestinian civilians are not to blame for the carnage committed by Hamas,” he said.

He also noted the means of defense makes a difference, as Israel intensifies a bombing campaign that has devastated Gaza and, according to Hamas, killed nearly 6,000 Palestinians.

At a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Blinken reiterated the U.S. position that Israel has the right and duty to defend itself after the “slaughter of its people’' by Hamas forces in the stunning Oct. 7 onslaught that killed more than 1,400 on Israeli soil.

In a statement, CAIR’s Florida Executive Director Imam Abdullah Jaber, said, “Americans of all faiths are deeply concerned for the lack of attention and action from our government officials and educational institutions to protect and keep every American safe, home and abroad.”

Community groups also express gratitude and concern for the safety of relief workers working on the ground in Gaza working to provide humanitarian assistance.

“We’re asking for protection for every American here and abroad,” said Corey Shearer, an Outreach Specialist for Emgage Action. “The cease fire is really to allow lower the temperature allowing the humanitarian aid to have a chance to get to the people that need it.”

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."