An Indian-American professor at the University of North Florida last week won a seat in the Florida Human Rights Commission by a 13-6 City Council vote. Parvez Ahmed, associate professor of finance at the Coggin College of Business, was appointed to the Jacksonville, Florida, council after an election marked by a smear campaign by an anti-Islamic group, Act for America. The group objected to his record for his previous community activism and his political views and claimed Muslims should not be allowed to hold public office.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a complaint April 8 with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, urging it to investigate allegations that the Florida-based hate group has been harassing members of that state's Muslim community.
"A vocal minority had mounted a spirited opposition against me but, as I always say, the process of democracyalthough quite messy at timesusually ends on a positive note. In India we are all accustomed to this. At the end it is always positive," said Ahmed, a past national board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"Cooler heads prevailed and most of the members of the council were able to distinguish between fact and fiction and that is gratifying. This shows a maturing of the country and certainly a maturing of our city," Ahmed said.
The CAIR said that as the city council began discussing the nomination, one of its members called Ahmed to the podium and asked him to 'say a prayer to your god.' The same member also asked Ahmed if the session's opening prayer offended him.Asked why that was relevant, the council member claimed Ahmed 'would be offended by a prayer to Jesus, and therefore was not suitable to serve on the commission.'
The Florida Times-Union newspaper reported that the council member's inappropriate line of questioning 'produced gasps from the audience, concern from one of the city's top attorneys, and sharp rebukes from his fellow council members.'
'The Florida Muslim community applauds the Jacksonville city council for standing up to the hatred and bigotry promoted by a tiny minority of fear-mongers,' said CAIR-Tampa executive director Ramzy Kilic.'This incident is further evidence of the unfortunately growing 'Islamophobia machine' in our nation that targets any Muslim who seeks positive civic participation,' he said.