TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. - A Temple Terrace City Council candidate is being attacked in an anonymous letter to voters, solely because of his Muslim religion.
Candidate Wael Odeh has lived in the city for decades and is a civil engineer who decided to run for one of two open seats in the council election which corresponds with the Presidential Election November 8.
In a letter dated this month but unsigned, the writer asks voters to question Odeh's place of birth. Odeh was born in Palestinian territory, but takes issue with the fact that the question is only being raised about him and no other candidate.
"When I spoke in one of my forums I told them I'm a Muslim but I'm not running as a Muslim. I'm running as a Temple Terrace resident," said Odeh.
The letter also suggests, without any specificity, that Odeh has links to terrorism and that his candidacy could bring Shariah Law to the city. They are claims Odeh and other Temple Terrace neighbors have found to be ridiculous and hateful. Beth Bosserman Curts recalled her anger after having the letter stuffed in her mailbox. It apparently was mailed to dozens of other homes.
"This is horrific. What a horrible way to greet the day with some hate mail. It's not acceptable at any time and especially in Temple Terrace," Curts said.
Odeh will be on the ballot on November 8. He says the letter, despite its hateful intent, may actually be helping his campaign. He hopes to use his candidacy to bring together people in Temple Terrace, including the Muslim community, which he estimates to make up 20-25 percent of the population.
"I've been getting a lot of good feedback, a lot of positive remarks, a lot of encouragement. People are reaching out to know me more," said Odeh.
City council has vowed to condemn the letter in its November 1 meeting.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released the following statement in response to the letter:
"In a year where CAIR Florida has documented a 500% increase in hate crimes and hate incidents targeting Muslim Americans in Florida, this unfounded and slanderous attack on Mr. Odeh is concerning and we hope Temple Terrace residents, community leaders, and neighbors will reject it's Islamophobic message. CAIR Florida encourages the Temple Terrace city council to follow the lead of the Lake Worth City Commission and the Miami City Commission in passing resolutions condemning hate speech and bigotry targeting Muslim Americans and in "solidarity with Muslims and those targeted for their ethnicity, race, or religion."