By Alex Seitz-Wald
Rep. Michele Bachmann has gotten a lot of attention lately for her witch hunt against Muslims in the U.S. government, but she’s not alone. In addition to the four lawmakers who signed on to her letters, there are a handful of others who together might be called the Islamophobia Caucus — and their ranks are likely to swell after November, thanks in part to one of the caucus’ most outspoken members, Rep. Allen West.
After redistricting made West’s 22nd Florida congressional district slightly more liberal, he moved to the 18th. Running in his place is Adam Hasner, the former Florida House majority leader who abandoned a previous bid for the Senate. Hasner has already earned top-flight endorsers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and West himself, as well as several major conservative organizations.
But perhaps a bit farther down the list is Pam Geller, the anti-Islam blogger and activist who spearheaded the effort against the so-called ground zero mosque. While she may not have officially endorsed Hasner, they’re clearly comrades in the fight against Shariah law. “Pamela [Geller] and I were on the front lines of that together, fighting to make sure that we kept her safe here,” Hasner told a Fort Lauderdale crowd in June of last year. For her part, Geller has written numerous blog posts praising Hasner, whom she declared to be “my friend.” “So many patriots and elected officials joined us, like Adam Hasner,” she wrote in June of last year. Here’s a photo of them posing together from her blog. (Hasner did not reply to requests for comment.)
As the Florida Independent noted in September of last year, Hasner has been involved in a “long-time crusade against the supposed threat of Sharia in the U.S.” In 2009, he appeared on a panel in D.C. with Geller and Frank Gaffney, the man behind Bachmann’s with hunt, according to a press release unearthed by the liberal research group American Bridge. Robert Spencer, another key figure in the Islamophobia cottage industry, called Hasner a “fearless truth teller” (here’s a photo them posing together via Spencer’s blog, Jihad Watch).
Before that, Hasner invited notorious Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders to Florida. “When I invited Geert Wilders to join me for a Free Speech conference in Palm Beach County, not only did the hotel cancel its plans to have him come in, but I was the one who was asked by the Hamas front group, the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations, to resign from the Florida House of Representatives, because I was an Islamophobe and a hater,” he said in the Fort Lauderdale speech. Wilders has made crusading against Islam his top priority. He was under house arrest for hate speech in Holland and is barred from visiting several countries.
When Hasner caught flak for the invitation, he was unperturbed. “These are the same people who have been attacking me all session. This isn’t about being anti-Islam, this is all about the right to free speech and they are trying to stifle it,” he casually told the St. Petersburg Times in April 2009. Wilders personally thanked Hasner in his speech, saying, “We need strong leaders like we have here today, Allen West and Adam Hasner. We need strong men like that.”
Within just a few days of the Wilders speech, it was an event that Hasner did not attend that raised eyebrows. He apparently boycotted an imam’s opening prayers at the state Legislature. The Palm Beach Post reported at the time:
As usual, the Florida House opened session today with a prayer. But for the first time this year (and possibly the first time ever), that prayer was led by an imam, Qasim Ahmed, from the Islamic Learning Institute in Tampa. The prayer was videotaped by Ahmed Bedier, United Voices of America director, who remarked on the absence of House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton. Bedier said he was videotaping the “historic” moment. “We did notice Hasner’s empty chair. That’s definitely noticed,” Bedier said… Hasner said he wasn’t on the floor this morning for personal reasons and noted the iman was in the House at the invitation of Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek. “It’s Jim Waldman’s right as a member to invite whomever he wants,” Hasner said.
In 2011, according to a YouTube video of a speech uncovered by American Bridge, Hasner boasted about the real reason for his absence two years earlier. “When the imam who was invited by a state representative who was a Democrat from here in Broward County, when he was invited to give the morning prayer at the Florida House of Representatives, and I boycotted the prayer, I was the one who was ridiculed,” he said.
In 2008, Hasner helped found an anti-Shariah group called Florida Security Council with an activist named Tom Trento. While Hasner was never an official member, he touted his involvement with the organization, which later changed its name to United West. “You cannot fight an enemy when you will not acknowledge that an enemy even exists, and that enemy has a name, and that is Shariah-compliant Islam,” Hasner told a local conservative group in March of last year. “We cannot allow political correctness and multiculturalism or appeasement to cripple our defenses at home or abroad.”
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon’s political reporter. Email him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.