In an interview with a Pakistani television program at the 2011 Islamic Society Of North America (ISNA) Convention, Coral Springs City Commission candidate Khurrum Wahid casually refers to the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 as “the incident of 9/11.” When the Pakistani-born lawyer is asked about the purpose of his Emerge USA/Emgage political committee, Wahid said they need to encourage young people to run for office to show, “[T]hat our faith, when put into action, really is the best thing for Americans as well.”
This is not the first time religion has become an issue in the Commission Seat 2 race.
On Friday, REDBROWARD reported how one of Wahid’s opponents used a Sunday sermon to address a political problem plaguing the campaign. Pastor Randal Cutter of the New Dawn Community Church tried to address concerns over his 1999 dreams about a hurricane. In a television interview at the time, Cutter claimed God used these dreams to warn people about Hurricane Irene. In his June 9, 2019 sermon, Cutter claimed if residents knew about the dreams it would help his campaign. Cutter said voters may think he has an “edge with God” that his opponents lack.
“We have a tendency to say, my God it’s better to have one of him than a whole bunch of those other people,” Cutter said. “Because they would be thinking maybe he has an edge with God.”
Like most lawyers, Coral Springs Commission candidate Khurrum Wahid loves to brag about his legal prowess. His official campaign Facebook page claims Wahid is a “longtime civil rights advocate” with “over 1,000 trials in a wide range of federal and state matters in civil, administrative and criminal fields.” In an April 22, 2019 Facebook video, Khurrum Wahid said, “I’ve been a zealous advocate supporting and fighting for the Constitution, fighting for Civil Rights for almost twenty years as an attorney.” Even though some of Wahid’s clients made headlines, he does not want Coral Springs voters to know about them.
Last month, the Sun-Sentinel wrote about all the candidates for the Coral Springs Commission Seat 2 race in June. Reporter Lisa Huriash gave specifics about Khurrum Wahid’s zealous advocacy:
Miami attorney Khurrum Wahid is the national co-chairman of EMERGE USA, a nonprofit American Muslim lobbying organization.
He is one of the nation’s most well-known at handling high-profile terrorism cases. Among his clients were Shaawar Matin Siraj, 23, a radical Muslim accused of plotting to bomb Manhattan’s Herald Square subway station in 2004. Siraj was convicted in 2006. And there was Boca Raton doctor Rafiq Sabir, 51, who was convicted of providing material support and offering treatment to wounded al-Qaida militants.
He also defended a man accused of aiding the Taliban in his native Pakistan in what prosecutors allege was a long-running conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap people overseas in support of a foreign terrorist organization.
On April 29th, Wahid issued a statement attacking the Sun-Sentinel story. He said, “Thanks to the rise of ISLAMOPHOBIA in our country, I find myself yet again needing to set the record straight for no other reason than that, as a criminal defense attorney, I have fought fiercely to defend the Constitution….”
Wahid tried to equate the Sun-Sentinel story to the Passover shooting at Chabad of Poway near San Diego, calling it “disheartening” that Sun-Sentinel dared to detail the legal cases that he often brags about in official campaign literature.
Wahid did not deny representing the terrorism suspects. He said, “I am proud of the work I and other attorneys do when we tackle such complex legal matters and do so with the understanding we are the last line of defense upholding the Constitution even when the accused is unpopular.”
Then, Wahid claimed these cases were singled out because he is Muslim. Wahid said, “[M]y involvement in these cases is held under a microscope and called into question. This has not been the case with any of the Christians, Jews, or Buddhists lawyers who worked with me on these cases.”
WAHID CAMPAIGN APPALUDS ATTACKS ON SUN-SENTINEL’S “HATRED”
Last week, the official Khurrum Wahid campaign Facebook page showcased a letter from a supporter to the Sun-Sentinel. Wendy King wrote she was “disappointed” that the Sun-Sentinel gave voters “irrelevant details about Wahid’s past clients and their cases.” Saying the details had nothing to do with the election, King wrote, “it is shameful that anti-Islamic bias seems to have played a big role in what have should been a straight-forward, informative article.”
Another Wahid supporter from the “Moms Demand Action” group parroted the attacks on the Sun-Sentinel. Nancy Fry, a local Democrat activist, told King she emailed the newspaper. Fry said she was “deeply disturbed” by the article, calling it a “thinly veiled Islamophobic attack on Khurrum Wahid.” Fry said the story was “alarmist and xenophobic.”
Calling Wendy King’s support “humbling,” the Wahid campaign page stated, “The unfortunate reality today is that we are being confronted with hatred, and it’s on all of us to stand together and call it out when we see it.”
In her own Facebook post, Wendy King lamented the Sun-Sentinel story was not censored. She wrote, “The fact the that the original article is still available and being linked to is still a problem….”
Surely, the Sun-Sentinel, recent winners of the Pulitzer Prize would not censor a story filled with easily verifiable facts about a political candidate’s legal resume, right?
WHY DID THE SUN-SENTINEL CHANGE ITS KHURRUM WAHID STORY?
On May 2, the Sun-Sentinel changed its story about the upcoming Coral Springs election. Khurrum Wahid was no longer one of the “nation’s most well-known” terrorism lawyers. Instead, the story added white collar criminals and mortgage fraud into the mix.
Any reference to Boca Raton doctor Rafiq Sabir and his material support of al-Qaida militants was removed entirely. An “al-Qaeda” tag on the story was also removed. The updated Wahid language reads as follows:
Wahid said the majority of his criminal defense cases are white-collar crimes including mortgage and Medicare fraud. But he has made national news for high-profile terrorism cases, including a suspect accused of plotting to assassinate a former president in 2005. Still, he said, ensuring the civil rights of people accused of even the worst crimes is what defense attorneys do. He has security clearance, so the many high-profile federal cases are often sent to him, he said.
Among his clients were Shaawar Matin Siraj, 23, a radical Muslim accused of plotting to bomb Manhattan’s Herald Square subway station in 2004. Siraj was convicted in 2006.
He was also part of a team of six attorneys who defended three family members accused of aiding the Taliban in Pakistan in what prosecutors allege was a long-running conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap people overseas in support of a foreign terrorist organization. The father was convicted, charges were dropped for one son, and the other son was acquitted.
Did the Sun-Sentinel bow to the pressure from Wahid supporters and remove pertinent facts from the story? Wahid made his legal resume a big part of his campaign. While it’s clear why he wants to keep the details vague, the Sun-Sentinel was right to highlight Wahid’s most prominent cases. Since when did straightforward reporting become “ISLAMOPHOBIA?”
REDBROWARD reached out to the Sun-Sentinel for comment. We will update story if they respond.