TALLAHASSEE — More than 100 Florida Muslims came to he state capital Tuesday to meet with lawmakers for Florida Muslim Capitol Day.
The attendees were largely indistinguishable from the many groups that come to Tallahassee during the legislative session. But their visit prompted House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach to speak out on the Capitol steps, questioning the group's leader, Ahmed Bedier.
"I've said it all along and I will say it again: Everyone, every Floridian has the right to come to Tallahassee and to petition their government," Hasner said. "But what is fundamental to our democracy is responsibility, accountability and transparency, and the people of Florida and my fellow legislators have the right to know about the well-documented information about the person who is leading this group."
Last month in an e-mail that was forwarded to Jewish lobbyists, Hasner asked about starting "an information campaign in opposition to" Florida Muslim Capitol Day, sponsored by the Tampa nonprofit United Voices for America.
The group was founded by Bedier, who once led the Tampa office of the Council on American-Islamic relations. Critics say there are links between Bedier and the militant Islamist group Hamas because of Bedier's former job at CAIR.
Bedier has called the allegation ridiculous and nonsense. He has said his job with CAIR was to advocate for equal rights for Muslims.
"This day is about including all Floridians in the political process, celebrating diversity and promoting civic participation for the betterment of the entire state," Bedier said in a statement Tuesday. "All people of conscience should unite in repudiating those who seek to divide Floridians along ethnic, racial or religious lines."