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Muslim woman speaks to media after suspicious behavior at synagogues

By Michael Seiden, For Local 10 News, On 19 February 2016, Read Original

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NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - A Muslim woman spoke to reporters Thursday after her actions raised safety concerns at a synagogue in North Miami Beach.

North Miami Beach police told Local 10 News Wednesday that they have interviewed the mother and daughter and do not believe they pose a danger to the community.

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Suspicious incidents at synagogues put Jewish community on alert

"Why were you there?" Local 10 News reporter Michael Seiden asked.

"For my first time, I just wanted to say hi," Nabila Ouakka said. "I wanted to meet new friends. I wanted to get in touch with my brothers and sisters."

"I'm (a) social person. I love people. I love being around people," Ouakka said.

Ouakka said she is terminally ill fighting breast cancer and is going through a divorce.

But she found herself at the center of a federal and local investigation after she and her mother were captured on surveillance video showing up to a North Miami Beach synagogue on two separate occasions last Friday and Sunday, asking odd questions and even pulling out a copy of the Quran.

"I called and they told me to come on Sunday. I went on Sunday," she said. "The Jewish people in a positive way. They're loving and caring . They love me and they want to include me in their life."

Members of the synagogue told Seiden that Ouakka never made an appointment with the rabbi although she claimed she did. They said they became concerned and reported the incidents to police.

"Through our investigation, we have determined that they pose no threat to anybody," Capt. Rich Rand said.

Police said a similar incident happened on Miami Beach over the weekend at the Beth Israel Congregation, at 770 W 40th St., when two boys in the congregation were approached by a couple asking similar questions about the times of services and amount of members who attend the synagogue.

On Thursday, Miami Beach police confirmed that the couple are not the same two women who stopped by the North Miami Beach synagogues.

While investigators have made it clear that the women did not commit a crime, some leaders in the South Florida Muslim community told Seiden that this is not a case of racial profiling.

"Do you see where the Jewish community is coming from, especially when you have extremists who are committing terroristic acts, not only around the world but right here in the U.S.?" Seiden asked.

"It is the right thing. If I see a stranger walking into an Islamic center in Jewish garb, asking what time we congregate? How many people go? How many people go to mosque? That's strange behavior and is going to be reported," Wifredo A. Ruiz, of the Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.

Sources told Local 10 that another incident was reported at a synagogue in Hollywood, but police in the city said they have not had any incidents reported to them.