TAMPA, Fla. — Whaid Abawi said he has the weight of Tampa’s Muslim community on his shoulders as he is speaking out against the mosque where he was once a volunteer.
“That is not going to stop me from telling the truth for what he saw,” he said.
Abawi said he was in meetings where Islamic Society of Tampa Bay leaders spoke about the youth director now charged with molesting children from the mosque.
He said they knew there had been prior accusations against Ehab Ghoneim, but still put him in charge of kids.
Ghoneim is accused of molesting five children at his Pinellas Park home and possibly while on some mosque-sanctioned field trips. Police said they first received information in March 2021 about the crimes.
“If they would have hired a private investigator or if they would have hired anyone for that matter, they would have found all those things," Abawi said. "But, they didn’t do that.”
Attorneys claim there may be more victims.
“We are heartbroken in this community because of what this guy has done because we try so hard, the community as a whole," Abawi said. "We try so hard to do the right thing and we are. All of us are. And then when a situation like this happens. It seems like someone comes and literally steps on your face."
Abawi chose to speak out right across the street from the mosque and quickly got the attention of members of the Islamic Society who said he is a disgruntled former member.
At first, Islamic Society leaders avoid questions, but then said they do have empathy for the victims.
Along with the criminal case, there is also a civil lawsuit from one of the victims against the former youth director and others at the mosque.