Tampa Muslim civil rights chief accused of abuse, harassment

A Tampa attorney who once headed the Florida chapter of a prominent Muslim civil rights organization has been charged with physical and sexual abuse and harassment by his estranged wife and several other women.

An NPR investigation published Thursday outlines allegations against Hassan Shibly, who resigned from his position as executive director of the Florida chapter of the Tampa-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in January.

He resigned a little over two weeks after his wife Imane Sadrati posted a GoFundMe video saying Shibly cut off her and her three children financially at ages 9, 10, and 11.

“I’ve been in an abusive relationship for years and the situation at home has become unbearable,” she said. “I finally decided to build up the courage to start over for my children and myself.”

In a January 12 letter, CAIR-Florida wrote that Shibly was leaving the organization “to focus on his family” and praised him “for the good he has done over the past decade.”

Shibly told NPR that he is denying his wife’s allegations, including the physical abuse allegations she made in court. The two are in the middle of divorce proceedings and last month a judge issued a non-contact order against Shibly.

“Your allegations are absolutely and blatantly false,” he told NPR. “She is using my position and the legal system to take advantage of our ongoing divorce process.”

One woman told NPR that she worked for Shibly at CAIR-Florida for two years but left after a series of troubling events: a business trip accusing him of taking photos of the back of flight attendants; Shibly told her that he loved her; and, she said, CAIR inaction when she complained.

Another woman said that Shibly led her into a secret religious marriage behind his wife’s back, and that he followed her recent conversion to Islam and her desire to deepen her beliefs. After posting a picture of herself without a headscarf on social media, she said he cut off her ponytail while she was sleeping. When she refused sex, he told her she had to do it because she was his wife. These allegations have also been clearly denied.

The story goes on

He admitted to having another affair with a woman who accused him of manipulation, NPR reported, but he said the woman also threatened him with violence and asked him to obtain an injunction. And in 2018, a family accused Shibly of molesting them after raising concerns about a clergyman – one of his former teachers – who was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student.

NPR wrote that a combination of interviews, CAIR documents, social media posts and emails portrayed “Shibly as a man who used his position to punish women and bully critics with impunity”.

Shibly, 34, did not return calls to his cell phones and office phones for comment from the Tampa Bay Times. Neither CAIR-Florida nor the organization’s national bureau responded to requests for comment.

In the face of Abuse in Community Environments (FACE), a Texas nonprofit that investigates reports of abuse by Muslim leaders, it announced in January that it had received several complaints about Shibly and was investigating it.

Shibly has been active on social media since NPR published his story. He posted a scripture on Facebook for “When It Comes to Defamation and Gossip Targeted at You.”

“My friends, when you see ridiculous and crazy and incredibly wrong things that have been said or written about you, never let yourself get puffed by them,” he tweeted Thursday morning, about an hour after the story went up.

And on his Instagram page, which recently featured photos from recent trips to Africa, he posted a series of photos of himself with a woman. Her name is Vanessa, he wrote. He called her his wife.

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