By RAY REYES | The Tampa Tribune
Jan 11, 2012
Jan 11, 2012
TAMPA -- Sami Osmakac would visit local mosques, say he was the only good Muslim in the building and tell other worshippers they were infidels.
Osmakac showed no respect to religious elders, who tried to steer him away from his extremist beliefs, community leaders said.
He repeatedly threatened one civil activist for encouraging Muslims to vote and promoting democracy.
That's the picture the local Muslim community paints of the 25-year-old Osmakac, who was arrested over the weekend, accused of trying to obtain guns and explosives to blow up clubs, bars and a law enforcement agency in Tampa.
Osmakac was such a disruptive element to the Muslim community that people considered a conference to discuss diffusing what they called "a ticking time bomb," said local civil rights activist Ahmed Bedier.
"Before the general public was harmed, he was threatening Muslims and Muslim leaders," said Bedier, president of United Voice for America. "This kid has very radical views. If Muslims see radicals in the community, they will be reported."
The Muslim community was instrumental in providing information that led to Osmakac's arrest, federal authorities said.
"This case is not about the Muslim religion," Tampa FBI Chief Steven E. Ibison said. "It's not about the Muslim community. It's about an individual" accused of trying to commit a violent crime, he said.
Bedier said he became aware of Osmakac when the Pinellas Park resident showed up at Bedier's speaking engagements and started challenging the activist on his democratic views.
"Sometimes I'll go to faith centers and talk about the importance of voting," said Bedier, the former director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa. "He was there, in a group of two or three people, and told me that promoting democracy is anti-Islam. They told me, 'If you speak about democracy at mosques again, we'll hurt you.'"
Osmakac posted a video on YouTube, recorded in front of First Baptist Church in downtown Tampa, denouncing democracy. In the video, he calls Bedier and CAIR "infidels" and says, "We're on to you."
Those confrontations prompted Bedier to ask people in the Muslim and Bosnian communities if they had any dealings or confrontations with Osmakac, who was born in Yugoslavia and whose family owns a bakery in St. Petersburg.
What Bedier found out concerned him.
"He's new to this religious identity, maybe two or three years," Bedier said. "Before that, he was just a kid listening to hip hop. He was not religious. Business owners in the Bosnian community said he was a punk; disrespectful. Then he made this complete shift. All of a sudden, he started acting holier than others."
In April, Osmakac clashed with a Christian group protesting a Lady Gaga concert at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Osmakac and one member of the Christian group got into an argument which escalated when Osmakac struck the protester twice, according to a Tampa police arrest report.
Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Tampa office of CAIR, said Osmakac was banned from at least two Tampa mosques because of his extremist views. Shibly said he met Osmakac last summer outside a local mosque, where he was arguing with one of the elders.
Shibly said he stepped in because the elder appeared to be having a hard time and Shibly thought he could help calm the situation. When Shibly asked Osmakac which mosque he attends, Osmakac said he didn't go to any mosques because, "they're all infidels and because they allow organizations like CAIR to have a presence."
"At that point, I was really taken back," Shibly said. "Who is this young kid calling people infidels and giving people edicts and thinks he's right and everybody's wrong? The prophet Mohamed said, 'Whoever calls his brother an infidel is himself an infidel.'"
Osmakac "had no understanding about anything of Islam," Shibly said. "I asked him some very basic questions about Islam and he could not answer any of them. He was very clearly misguided."
Bedier agreed with Shibly, saying that Osmakac's understanding of Islam is "very shallow" and that he believes that Osmakac picked up his extremists beliefs "from the Internet."
Source: The Tampa Tribune