Hills. school board meeting gets heated over CAIR controversy

By Laurie Davison, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Hillsborough County School Board meeting got heated Tuesday night as both sides spoke their views on whether an Imam from the Council on American-Islamic Relations should be allowed to lecture high school students.

For the first time since the controversy started, the Executive Director of Tampa's CAIR chapter, Hassan Shibly, took his turn at the school board podium.

"These guys are calling me a terrorist. C'mon, if any of these things were really true, I wouldn't be standing here," he said.

Complaints started after Shibley spoke to a high school history class about the Islamic faith. They claim CAIR has ties to terrorism and say Shibly isn't qualified to speak to students.

Shibly defended his school appearance by saying he's trying to promote understanding.

"Unfortunately, there have been so many lies that have been said today I feel like I have to come out here and prove the world isn't flat," he said.

One school board member scolded the audience.

"I watched some people put their hands over their ears and plug their ears," said board member, April Griffin. "I watched a group of people get up in mass and walk out of the room because a young woman said she was going to say a prayer and she was Muslim."

The meeting ended peacefully but both sides say they're not backing down.

The superintendent gave board members a proposal that would set some guidelines for speakers but nothing was decided tonight.

They plan to hold a workshop and discuss it at another time.