Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council on American-Islamic Relations Leader Resigns; He Cites Group's Failure to Be More Proactive, Open to Younger Muslims

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council on American-Islamic Relations Leader Resigns; He Cites Group's Failure to Be More Proactive, Open to Younger Muslims

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

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.

An outspoken critic of the group said Ahmed did not capitalize on a golden opportunity to transform the organization.

The council was the only Muslim agency in the United States experiencing growth when Ahmed assumed its leadership, said Muqtedar Khan, director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware. But its continued foray into political and foreign-policy matters - such as seeking rights for foreign combatants held at Guantanamo Bay - has detracted from its mission of promoting Muslim-American rights, he said.

"He had an opportunity to take it to the next level and I think he failed," Khan said. …

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