Charlotte County’s Supervisor of Elections, Paul Stamoulis gave a lecture at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County last Thursday dealing with the world of Islam. Advance publicity said the topic would be “The Rise of Radical Islam.” What the nearly 400 attendees heard was a two-hour plus academic style, chart-and-map-heavy presentation on the history of the Islamic religion from ancient times to the present with a bit of quibbling from a few audience members who were present to combat what they say they expected to be a speech filled with rampant Islamophobia.
Before the lecture, a handful of demonstrators who were closely watched by Charlotte County Sheriff deputies chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho Islamophobia must go” on the sidewalk outside.
The lecture, one in a series of ten titled “Government and Politics—Strange Bedfellows” offered by the Charlotte Supervisor of Elections office, proceeded with minimal interruption, until Stamoulis offered this opinion on American Muslims and Sharia law.
“The failure to acknowledge the supremacy—this is the touchy part—I’m not sure Muslims can make this adjustment,” he said. “I sure hope they can. The failure to acknowledge the supremacy of civil laws over Sharia law—in the US that means the US Constitution and democratically—that’s supposed to be—legislated laws,” said Stamoulis.
That’s when Hassan Shibly, of the Council on American Islamic Relations or CAIR in Tampa spoke up.
“I’m a civil rights lawyer, an Imam, and a Muslim, and I don’t know any Muslims that disagree that the US Constitution is the supreme law of the land,” said Shibly. “God bless you. I’m committing my life to defend the US Constitution; I’m proud to do so.”
“How ‘bout that?” asked Stamoulis. “Well you know what? Everything else is negotiable.”
Attendees at the lecture had been made aware of its potentially sensitive nature as soon as they entered the theater. On each seat was taped a printed “event disclaimer” from the management saying that the material that would be presented “does not necessarily constitute the views or an endorsement from the Cultural Center of Charlotte County.”