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Tampa Muslim civil rights leader accused of abuse, harassment

Hassan Shibly denies the allegations raised in an NPR investigation. He stepped down from the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in January.
A 2019 photo of Hassan Shibly, a Tampa civil rights lawyer who for a decade led the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He has been accused of abuse and harassment by several women, an NPR investigation found. He has denied the allegations.
A 2019 photo of Hassan Shibly, a Tampa civil rights lawyer who for a decade led the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He has been accused of abuse and harassment by several women, an NPR investigation found. He has denied the allegations.
Published Apr. 16
Updated Apr. 16

A Tampa attorney who once led the Florida chapter of a prominent Muslim civil rights organization has been accused of physical and sexual abuse and harassment by his estranged wife and several other women.

An NPR investigation published Thursday outlines the allegations against Hassan Shibly, who resigned in January from his post as the executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, which has its main office in Tampa.

He resigned just just over two weeks after his wife, Imane Sadrati, posted a GoFundMe video in which she said Shibly had financially cut off her and her three children, ages 9, 10 and 11.

“For years, I have been in an abusive relationship, and the situation at home has become unbearable,” she said. “I finally decided to build the courage to start over for my children and I.”

In a Jan. 12 letter, CAIR-Florida wrote that Shibly was leaving the organization “to focus on his family” and praised him “for the good he has done over the past decade.”

Shibly told NPR that he denies the accusations made by his wife, including allegations of physical abuse that she made in court. The two are in the midst of divorce proceedings and last month a judge granted a no-contact order against Shibly.

“Her accusations are absolutely and blatantly false,” he told NPR. “She’s using my position and the legal system to gain advantage in our ongoing legal divorce process.”

One woman told NPR that she worked for Shibly at CAIR-Florida for two years but left after a string of troubling events: A business trip on which she accused him of taking photos of flight attendants’ backsides; Shibly telling her he loved her; and, she said, inaction by CAIR when she complained.

Another woman said Shibly tricked her into a secret religious marriage behind his wife’s back, and that he’d preyed on her recent conversion to Islam and her desire to deepen her faith. After she posted a picture of herself without a headscarf on social media, she said, he cut off her ponytail in her sleep. When she refused sex, he told her she had to because she was his wife. Shibly denied those accusations, too.

He admitted to another affair with a woman who accused him of manipulation, NPR reported, but he said the woman also threatened him with violence, prompting him to obtain a restraining order. And in 2018, according to the investigation, a family accused Shibly of harassing them after they raised concerns about a cleric — one of his former teachers — who’d been accused of engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a student.

NPR wrote that a combination of interviews, CAIR documents, social media posts and emails “portray Shibly as a man who used his position to seduce women and bully critics with impunity.”

Shibly, 34, did not return calls to his cell and office phones requesting comment from the Tampa Bay Times. Neither CAIR-Florida nor the organization’s national office responded to requests for comment.

Facing Abuse in Community Environments, or FACE, a Texas nonprofit that investigates reports of abuse by Muslim leaders, said in January that it received several complaints about Shibly and started its own investigation.

Shibly has been active on social media since NPR published its story. On Facebook, he posted scripture for “when it comes to slander and gossip targeting you.”

“My friends, when you see ridiculous and crazy and unbelievably false things said or written about you never let that bring you down,” he tweeted Thursday morning, about an hour after the story went up.

And on his Instagram page, which of late has featured photos from recent travels in Africa, he posted a series of photos of himself with a woman. Her name is Vanessa, he wrote. He called her his wife.