Jacksonville resident Parvez Ahmed has resigned as chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, saying he’s frustrated about the national organization’s failure to be more proactive and positive in its promotion of Muslim civil rights. The nation’s most well-known Muslim advocacy group, which he has led as board chairman since 2005, also needs to be more inclusive of younger, less-religious Muslims and encourage regular turnover of leadership ranks to ensure an infusion of new ideas, he told the Times-Union on Monday, a day after resigning. These and other goals have been agreed to in principle by the organization’s board and professional leadership, Ahmed said, but “an old guard mentality” among some of those leaders has kept elements of the strategic plan from being realized. “And I got a little bit burned out pushing so hard” for the organization to be more open and transparent, he said. The Washington, D.C.-based council declined to answer specific questions about Ahmed’s comments. Instead, it e-mailed a four-sentence statement thanking Ahmed, 44, for his contributions and acknowledging differences in vision. “Ultimately, the majority of organizational stakeholders supported a vision for implementing change and growth that differed from that of Dr. Ahmed,” the statement said. Two board members did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday.
The report goes on to provide further comments and background on Ahmed:
Ahmed said one of his unrealized goals was to transform the council into an organization that doesn’t sound anti-American when it’s criticizing government policies. An example would be racial profiling, he said. In such cases the organization rightly criticizes the practice but routinely fails to work behind the scenes with government agencies to ultimately eliminate the practice. Ahmed, a business professor at the University of North Florida, said his resignation has as much to do with a busy personal and professional life as it does with the council’s sluggish movement. He’s in the process of writing two books. And he said his children – a daughter, 11, and son, 7 – are beginning to require more of his time and energy for home schooling. “I also wanted to send a message that a change in leadership is needed at the highest level, that we need some new blood at the board and executive levels,” he said. Ahmed has been a member of the council since 1991 but got actively involved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “Before that I was a very studious, quiet academic,” he said. By October of that year he had formed Pennsylvania’s first council chapter and was named state chairman. In 2002 he had moved to Jacksonville to teach at UNF and was named chairman of Florida’s council. At the time it boasted a $70,000 annual budget, one small office and a single part-time staffer. Today, he said, the council has additional offices in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, 10 full-time employees and an annual budget of $900,000. Although he will no longer be involved with the national council, Ahmed said he hopes it will devote more resources to demonstrating that Americans and Muslims share the values of peace, justice, understanding and inclusiveness. “The values of Islam and the values of America are complimentary.
Despite Dr. Parvez’s professed desire to not “sound anti-American”, throughout his tenure at CAIR the organization consistently portrayed U.S. anti-terror efforts as directed against the Muslim community itself. As an organization, CAIR has suffered damage to its reputation of late when court documents released in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism-financing trial revealed that the organization was part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas infrastructure in the U.S. As a previous post has discussed, some of these documents indicated that current CAIR leaders were present at a 1993 meeting in Philadelphia held by senior leaders of Hamas, the Holy Land Foundation, and the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP). Dr. Ahmed subsequently denied that CAIR or its current or former leaders had any ties to Hamas, blaming the concept on pro-Israel supporters and called the meeting “an open meeting of Palestinian activists who came together to discuss the Oslo peace accords and their struggle to gain a homeland.” CAIR had its origins in the U.S. Hamas infrastructure and has, throughout the life of the organization, been associated with fundamentalism, anti-Semitism, and support for terrorism.