Middle East studies in the News
Prof. At Rollins College Involved In Suspending Christian Student Has Ties To Islamic Extremists [on Areej Zufari]
New details surfacing regarding a Muslim Rollins College professor who was involved in the wrongful suspension of a Christian student show that she has multiple ties with radical Islamic individuals and organizations, most notably through an ex-lover under FBI investigation and in her position as the spokesperson for the Islamic Society of Central Florida (ISCF).
The College Fix reported last Monday that the professor, Areej Zufari, falsely accused the student, sophomore Marshall Polston, of violating the terms of his suspension by setting foot on campus, resulting in a disciplinary hearing with the university conduct system. Polston has since been exonerated of all charges after providing surveillance footage of where he really was at the time and has been officially reinstated at the college.
Polston claims he was originally suspended after sending a strongly worded email refuting his professor's claims that Jesus's crucifixion never happened and that his followers never believed he was the son of God. Rollins College refused to answer questions on whether they would investigate these claims and Zufari's potential ties to Islamic extremists.
Zufari served as the spokesperson and Director of Communications for the Islamic Society of Central Florida (ISCF) from 2001 to at least 2004, according to the author bio from her 2012 book "Beyond the Headlines" and press communications from the organization. ISCF's main mosque, Masjid al-Rahman, is owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which was classified by federal prosecutors as both an un-indicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing case and as an entity that is or was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In this case, the Muslim Brotherhood's goals were identified as "establish[ing] a network of organizations in the U.S. to spread a militant Islamist message and raise money for Hamas," and "eliminating the State of Israel through violent jihad." Former FBI special agent Robert Stauffer stated that NAIT's role in the Muslim Brotherhood is that of a nonprofit financial holding company, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
Security policy expert Alex Alexiev reports in the National Review that NAIT is "the proprietor of hundreds of radical mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S., including some that have been closed down by the government as criminal enterprises." According to the Hudson Institute, NAIT is the title owner of at least 25% of all Islamic facilities in the United States with some estimates reaching up to 79%. ISCF has not responded to multiple calls and emails asking if Zufari still holds a position with the organization.
In recent years ISCF has received notable publicity for terrorism fundraising activities. In 2009, ISCF sponsored and held an event at Masjid al-Rahman that raised at least $55,000 for George Galloway's Viva Palestina, which has been criticized as being a financial conduit for the terrorist organization Hamas. Indeed, in 2009 Galloway held a public press conference where he handed a bag of cash over to Hamas leadership.
In a 2011 interview with the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies of Florida (RRRAF), Imam Muhammad Musri, president of ISCF, was hounded with questions regarding his knowledge of the fundraiser, according to the United West, a nongovernmental counter-jihad organization.
During the interview, Musri's story changes many times. At first, he claims not to have known Galloway, who had his visa revoked in 2010, but admits that Galloway goes around the world gathering money for Hamas a few minutes later, though continuing to stick to with his story of not knowing that the money raised was going to Hamas.
That same year Musri came under fire again with claims that since he became president of ISCF 15 years ago, "members, donors and contributors are not allowed to see how much money is collected and how it is spent," and "there have been no elections for the society's president or its nine board members," according to the Orlando Sentinel.
While its website claims that the organization is for peaceful practitioners of Islam, earlier this year Imam Musri welcomed Sheikh Mohammed Rateb Al-Nabulsi, a radical Muslim cleric who openly calls for the death of Jews and gays, according to Heritage Florida Jewish News.
In recent years Rollins College appears to have forged deep connections with ISCF and the two have engaged in affiliated projects dating as far back as 1998. Rollins has collaborated on several events with the ISCF, including one as late as September of 2016, according to the ISCF's Twitter page.
Aside from publicly representing ISCF, between at least 2004-2007, Zufari was caught up in the middle of a divorce case between Rosine Ghawji and her husband, Maher Ghawji, a Syrian-born endocrinologist, whom Rosine has exposed as a supporter of and donor to radical Islamic activities.
Proof of the affair, found in the affidavit of counter-terrorism expert Joe Kaufman, showed that Zufari had been planning a trip to a nudist resort with Maher Ghawji, a man who admitted in court to giving money to his brother, who ended up being a part of a terrorist-linked organization, according to page 32 of the court filing. Specifically, a receipt shows that Maher has donated to Mercy International, a charity that was involved with an Al Qaeda terrorist attack, according to the Washington Institute.
Six years prior to their divorce, Rosine began acting as an FBI informant leaking information about her ex-husband, who she claims revealed himself to her to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood early on in their relationship.
Email evidence uncovered in the court filing shows that the two were so deeply involved that Zufari had gone to Syria and visited with Ghawji's family. This past Wednesday, Zufari's sister confirmed in a comment on a Facebook post that at one point they were even engaged to be married, but claims "their relationship didn't last for other reasons" after the court trial had ended.
According to point 20 of her lawsuit against Zufari, Rosine alleges that throughout the affair Zufari was aware of her ex-husband's extremist beliefs, and was even complicit in the plan to radicalize Ghawji's two children, Louis and Tarek "K.K." Ghawji.
On page 47 of the court filing Ghawji admitted that he had told his wife that he did not want Jewish children in his home. In fact, both of Ghawji's sons have mentioned his father's disdain for Jews multiple times. On one occasion, Louis Ghawji, their oldest son, sent an email to a friend in 2004 saying, "And because he [Maher Ghawji] wants to get rid of all the Jews and everybody should be muslim and if not all others are idiots and...wants me to go blow up myself so he would be proud of me[.]"
In an interview conducted by a court reporter with both children present, K.K. Ghawji is on record saying, "When he watches the TV and hears about Jews, he doesn't, - he's like saying I hate the Jews," to which Louis interrupts and says, "He's always wondering like every time there is one Jew dead, it is always a big fuss, and there is a Palestinian, they don't care; that's what he says."
Both of his children have corroborated these statements, and pleaded with the court on multiple occasions not to be forced to live with their father. K.K. Ghawji explained their relationship with his father in a school paper, saying his father was a "fanatic Muslim and he doesn't care if my brother and I get blown up for Islam and if I say that I am not a Muslim he will rather see me dead in the street."
According to World Net Daily, despite Rosine providing a substantial amount of evidence and her children pleading for Judge Donna Fields, who presided over the case, not to send them with their father, Judge Fields refused to grant their requests. Although the boys made it clear that they wished to live as Christians, Judge Fields declared, "Those children will have to follow the Muslim religion," during her final ruling on the divorce case. They were also ordered to accompany their father on the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
Rosine Ghawji filed an ethics complaint against Judge Fields through her general counsel's office for refusing to acknowledge her assertions that her husband was involved in terrorist activities. This was not the first-time Judge Fields had been criticized over ethics. There are several online petitions that were created in the late 2000s that call for Judge Fields to be removed from her bench. Judge Fields recently retired from her duties, despite having six years left in her term, according to Ballotopedia.
When asked to respond to the situation and Zufari's ties to radical Islam, Rollins College spokeswoman Jo Marie Hebeler said the following in a statement:
"Rollins College is welcoming and respectful of all religious and cultural beliefs. As an institution of higher education, we value and encourage diversity of opinions and respectful discourse. In accordance with FERPA and our institutional policies, it is our responsibility to respect the privacy and confidentiality of all involved in this incident, students and faculty alike. The safety and fair treatment of all members of our campus community is of utmost concern."
Rollins College stated there will be no further comment on the situation.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
Campus Watch contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org