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Williams: Fake news attack on local mosque

By Lee Williams, For Herald Tribune, On 15 February 2017, Read Original
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The headline was...; well...; a "bombshell."

"BOMBSHELL — Feds Raid Mosque and Uncover HORRIFYING Plans for Americans."

The non-bylined story appeared on the website yesterday, categorized under "TERRORISM."

It popped up in Facebook feeds all across Sarasota. Four people sent me links. One asked, "How could you have missed this?"

How indeed ...;

The "story" alleged that when federal agents raided the mosque in Sarasota, they found a "gun training program connected to CAIR — the controversial Council on American-Islamic Relations organization — was going on inside Islamic centers statewide."

This "news" was somewhat disconcerting. I'd been to the mosque, you see. I went with a photographer to cover their open house. I damn near ate my body weight in Moroccan shish kabob. If there was a paramilitary training operation going on, I'd missed it. Our hosts had been gracious and friendly. I've encountered far more hate and discontent at family reunions, which, by the way, are far more paramilitary than anything going on at the mosque.

I immediately reached out to a senior official I know at the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. If there was a raid, he'd know all about it. Hell, he might have breached the door.

The Sheriff's official had seen the story, but assured me that there had been no raid.

Just to be on the safe side, the official checked with the FBI. The Hoover boys almost always contact local law enforcement before they conduct a raid — as it involves real police work — but there was a slim chance the feds could have done something on their own.

The FBI had also seen the story, but they too hadn't conducted any raids.

The "story" claims that Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Nezar Hamze — a Muslim and CAIR official — has "gone into mosques to teach the Islam worshipers how to properly use guns and how to get security surveillance system grants from the United States government."

I managed to track down a member of Sarasota's mosque who'd actually taken Deputy Hamze's training.

There were no firearms involved, he said. Instead, Hamze spoke about what to do if an active shooter entered the mosque — basic "run, hide or fight" stuff.

At that point, having wasted half a day trying to verify the unverifiable, I gave up.

I have a few problems with this "story" — actually more than a few.

First, there's no byline. That's a huge red flag.

When I write a story, I put my name on it. That means I alone am responsible for the content. If you don't like what I've written, you can let me know.

Secondly, there's no need for this kind of crap.

Things are looking pretty good for gun owners nowadays. We don't need to distort the facts, and we certainly don't need fake news, and to be clear, that's exactly what this story is — fake news.

And then there's the photo — two AKs — a Romanian WASR and a Hungarian AMD.

I guess the reader is supposed to infer that the AKs were seized from the mosque during the raid, even though there was no raid, much less a weapon seizure.

I've never liked the AMD. It's always been my least-favorite AK platform. Somehow, I guess, as it pertains to this fake news story, it's fitting.

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