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Despite shrill critics, Ahmed an ideal appointee

Source: Florida Times Union, April 25, 2010.

Despite shrill critics, Ahmed an ideal appointee

By Ron Littlepage. From the editorial page

Some are upset that the terms "bigoted" and "intolerant" have been used in the debate over Parvez Ahmed's nomination to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

Here's just one example of why those descriptions are accurate. An e-mail I received read:

"It is not bigotry to protect our country. We are in a war against muslims (small m because these people do not deserve to be capitalized.)

"We do not need any more muslims in our government setting policy. We have one in
the white house and that's more than enough.

"Yes, he is a muslim. He attended their schools as a child and why do [you] think he and his family have not chosen to attend church?

"Thank God for Webb and Yarborough who are trying to protect this country."

It would be one thing if such uninformed sentiments were rare, but they weren't rare in e-mails and telephone calls I received after writing about Ahmed's nomination.

One motivation for the anti-Muslim rhetoric often mentioned was the despicable actions of Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood in Texas.

I'm guessing those detractors never read what Ahmed wrote after that tragedy.

"Muslims in America do face the problems of discrimination and many feel dismayed about America's policy towards hot spots like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Palestine," he wrote on Huffington Post.

"But those issues cannot be solved by acts of terror or random violence.

"Terror in the name of Islam has only brought more misery to Muslims at home and abroad. Terrorism is morally bankrupt and strategically unsuccessful."

Such condemnations of terrorism is a constant theme in Ahmed's writings and speeches.
Others are promoting peace and understanding, and bridging divides among different religions.

The goals of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission include promoting "mutual understanding and respect among members of all economic, social, racial, religious and ethnic groups" and eliminating "discrimination against and antagonism between religious, racial and ethnic groups."

In a city with a population that's becoming more diverse, Ahmed's voice would be a welcome addition to the 20-member commission.

As disturbing as some of the bigoted and intolerant comments have been, there have been the numerous e-mails and calls supporting Ahmed's nomination.

Much of that support comes from people who actually know and work with Ahmed, unlike those who are railing against him.

The Jacksonville City Council is set to take up Ahmed's nomination during its regular meeting on Tuesday night.

Council members Clay Yarborough and Jack Webb, who wants to be the next council president, already have said they will vote against Ahmed's nomination.

One voice that has not been heard in this debate - at least not as loudly as those of Webb and Yarborough - is that of Mayor John Peyton.

Peyton would do well to go before the council and remind council members that the action they take will say a lot about our city.

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