Nezar Hamze is both a Muslim American who is the executive director of the South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a self-identified Republican. As a way to further his activism in the Republican Party, Hamze campaigned for a position on his local Republican party’s executive committee in Broward County, Florida.
During a “raucous meeting” of the party on Monday night, Hamze’s bid for committee membership was rejected by a vote of 11–158, as he was attacked with offensive questions about his faith and even compared to a terrorist by Islamophobic attendees.
Before the vote even took place, the local party changed its rules to require that each new applicant to the executive committee answer questions for five minutes, a rule change Hamze jokingly told a reporter could be called the “Hamze rule.” And as audience members stepped up to interrogate Hamze, he was told that his organization CAIR was identified as a terrorist organization and asked if he supported terrorism. Following the lead of GOP audiences who have booed gays and condemned the uninsured, one attendee yelled out “terrorist!” as Hamze was trying to speak:
At times, when he addressed the packed room at the Sheraton Suites in Fort Lauderdale, a few members shouted out among the crowd of about 300.
“Terrorist!” said one man.
After the vote, Hamze said he wished he had received a letter of denial rather than face such a barrage of hostile questions. One Republican member remarked that Hamze had effectively been “singled out”:
“Wow,” [Hamze] said afterward. “If I had realized it would be like that, I wish they had just sent me a letter saying I was denied.” One Broward Republican member, blogger Javier Manjarres, objected to the process. “They singled him out,” Manjarres said. “It was a set up.”
Before seeking a spot on his local party’s committee, Hamze told the Florida Independent that the main reason he was making his bid was to bring “Muslims to the mainstream political process.” Yet it appears that the Broward County Republican Party seems to believe that Hamze has to be either a Muslim or a Republican, but not both.
Hamze tells Salon’s Justin Elliott that he will persist in going to county meetings: “They can’t stop me from attending the meetings. I believe I can accomplish my goals of helping the party and introducing a Muslim Republican to candidates so they know Muslim Republicans are out there.”