Jacksonville panel votes again to recommend Ahmed for commission

Video of Rules Committee Meeting, April 19, 2010

Florida Times Union, April 20, 2010
By Tia Mitchell
University of North Florida President John Delaney said he decided to speak up in public for Parvez Ahmed not just because he is an employee but because he felt an upstanding man was being vilified.

"He's a person of peace," Delaney said after speaking at Monday's City Council Rules Committee meeting. "He's about love, and he's about mutuality and reconciliation.

He's never been a militant or rabid in interpersonal dealings, and the faculty here will tell you that."

The Rules Committee agreed with the former two-term mayor and voted 4-1 to uphold its previous decision to recommend Ahmed for confirmation to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission. The full council will now take up the issue at its April 27 meeting.

Voting in favor of recommending Ahmed were Art Shad, John Crescimbeni, Denise Lee and Bill Bishop.

Councilman Clay Yarborough voted "no" - changing his stance from two weeks earlier. Yarborough said the recent allegations that Ahmed, a UNF professor and a Muslim, has ties to terrorism were enough to change his mind.

"I have too much of a reasonable doubt based on the research I've done over the last week and a half," he said.

Council Vice President Jack Webb left the room before the vote was taken. He told The Times-Union he stepped out to get a soft drink and then ran into Delaney, who wanted to talk about Ahmed's nomination.

Webb said he was surprised that the vote came so soon and would have voted against Ahmed's nomination. Asked why he didn't ask the committee to reopen the ballot so he could cast his vote on the record, Webb said, "I probably should have in retrospect."

At least two unidentified men walked out of the meeting, including one who had an angry outburst during Delaney's statements. As Delaney described the opposition campaign as fueled by hate, the man shouted his disagreement.

"I am not a racist! I am not going to be called a racist! It's not going to happen!" the man yelled as security officers followed him out of the council chambers.

After the vote, members of ACT! for America - the anti-Islamist group that has been most vocally opposed to Ahmed's nomination - and others expressed their disappointment. Randy McDaniels, leader of the organization's Jacksonville chapter, said he felt the council was ignoring troubling facts.

"With this many allegations and this much controversy, should someone like this be nominated?" McDaniels asked.
Ahmed, a Fullbright Scholar, professor at UNF and a Muslim, said the committee's vote was vindication not only for him as an individual but for the city as a whole.

"The city needed an outcome that demonstrated courage," he said, "that demonstrated moral clarity."

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