Letters of Support From OneJax, CAHR/FSU, NAACP, Community Foundation


April 15, 2010

Dear Jacksonville Friends and Supporters,

We at OneJax, an interfaith organization whose mission is to promote respect and understanding among people of different religions, races, cultures and beliefs, must go on record to express our dismay and disappointment at the actions of the City Council regarding the delay of a vote to approve the Mayor's nomination of Dr. Parvez Ahmed to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

Dr. Ahmed, a UNF professor, Fulbright Scholar and longtime Board member of our organization, works tirelessly in this community to unify people across cultures, races, and religions. His human relations track record locally, nationally and internationally speaks volumes about his integrity, dedication, and competence. Dr. Ahmed embodies the guiding principles of our organization:

Respect: We respect and value every person's human dignity.
Unity: We celebrate our common humanity and honor our differences.
Courage: We stand together and speak out when oppression hurts people.
Integrity: We live the principles we talk about in our everyday lives.
Accountability: We act accountably with those we serve and with those who support us.

We ask that our City Council embrace these principles, refuse to give further credence to attempts at cultural stereotyping, and approve the nomination of Dr. Ahmed to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

If you agree, take action and contact the members of City Council today. Make your voice heard and support Parvez Ahmed.

We appreciate your commitment to helping us make Jacksonville an inclusive community.

Brenda B. Ezell
Board Chair
Celeste Krueger, Ed.S.
Executive Director

From Center for Advancement of Human Rights, Florida State University

*Open message to the Council regarding Mayor John Peyton’s nomination of Dr. Parvez Ahmed…

April 15, 2010

I write in support of Mayor John Peyton’s nomination of Dr. Parvez Ahmed, Fulbright Scholar and Associate Professor of Finance, Department of Accounting and Finance, Coggin College of Business, University of North Florida, to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

More specifically, I write given my understanding that the Council recently voted to refer his nomination back to the rules committee for further consideration in response to certain accusations that Dr. Ahmed has ties to extremist groups -- which presumably refer to his prior role as national chair of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

From my perspective, that course of action is perplexing given that Dr. Ahmed is widely recognized as a highly regarded commentator on the American Muslim experience and consistently has been an eloquent voice of moderation. Moreover, I understand that Dr. Ahmed has garnered wide-ranging support for this appointment.

For context, I serve as senior program director for The Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights (FSU/CAHR) in Tallahassee. I am a lawyer with almost two decades of policy experience and have served as senior staff in the Florida’s Governor’s Office, the White House and the U.S. State Department. Of particular note, I directed the Center's Liberty in the Balance Project -- a two-year initiative that FSU/CAHR launched several months after 9/11 with partial support from the Office of the Florida Attorney General in an effort to help facilitate an appropriate balance between law enforcement imperatives and civil liberties interests in a post-9/11 environment.

My initial interaction with Dr. Ahmed dates back to the aforementioned project. Simply put, his contributions proved to be invaluable. We have worked together on various other issues over the course of the past several years.

The irony in this instance is compelling… Several weeks ago, against the backdrop of Ft. Hood, Flight 253 and recent reporting relating to activities by certain Christian Militia groups in Michigan, Dr. Ahmed, Bob Cromwell (a former FBI Special Agent in Charge within the Bureau’s Jacksonville, FL, Division… who I am aware has developed a strong working relationship with Dr. Ahmed) and I concluded that there was ample cause to reengage on these issues in Florida. Accordingly, the three of us resolved to pilot a renewed version of the Liberty in the Balance Project, which FSU/CAHR plans to launch in the near term. Once again, Dr. Ahmed will play a key role.

I am confident that Dr. Ahmed’s background, experience and insights will serve the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission and thereupon the people of Jacksonville well. I encourage Council members to take favorable action on his nomination without further delay.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like clarification regarding any element of this message.


Mark Schlakman

Note1: Before I joined FSU’s faculty in early 2002, I had the privilege of serving in several senior government positions at the state and federal levels including, special counsel to Governor Lawton Chiles, special advisor to Governor Jeb Bush during his first several months in office, senior advisor to Governor "Buddy" MacKay amidst his tenure as White House Special Envoy for the Americas during the final two years of the Clinton administration, and as a special advisor to U.S. Senator Bob Graham toward the end of my tour in Washington, D.C.

I also served as a Foreign Affairs Officer for the U.S. Department of State where I received its Superior Honor Award in recognition of my service within the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs while assigned to the White House. I subsequently served as Alternate Representative for the US Permanent Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS).

Note2: I have copied Dr. Ahmed, The Honorable Mayor John Peyton, Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte (President Emeritus, The Florida State University and former president of the American Bar Association), Terry Coonan (Executive Director, FSU/CAHR), Derick Daniel (Executive Director, Florida Commission on Human Relations) and Bob Cromwell (former Special Agent in Charge, FBI -- Jacksonville, FL, Division) on this message.

FROM NAACP - Jacksonville Branch

April 19, 2010

The Honorable Richard Clark
President, Jacksonville City Council
11 7 W. Duval St., Ste 425
Jacksonville, FL 32202

RE: Dr. Parvez Ahmed

Dear President Clark:

This letter is written in support of Mayor John Peyton's nomination of Dr. Parvez Ahmed, an associate professor of finance at the University of North Florida, to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission. As the President of the Jacksonville Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and speaking for the Branch, we support Dr. Ahmed's confirmation. The NAACP has a long standing history of fighting for human rights of all people and we consider these circumstances no different.

Dr. Ahmed, a United States Fulbright Scholar, brings this community outstanding experiences with his nomination as the first Muslim representative to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission. His service on the Commission would truly expand its diverse representation. His long standing commitment and his valuable contributions to the Jacksonville community helps our essential development. Dr. Ahmed is not new to Jacksonville. He is an advocate for human rights. In order to embrace the diversity that is destined for this city, we must have a Human Rights Commission that is socially and racially inclusive. We have seen what happens over the years when Jacksonville excludes rather than includes.

The cultural characteristics and the fabric of all races shape our nation. Jacksonville is merely a small microcosm of our country and this nomination is crucial to shaping the thoughts we must embrace in our diversity. We must begin to accept and understand all people. The Jacksonville City Council should not condemn Dr. Ahmed before all facts are presented. A person's religious affiliations, color of their skin, and ethnic background should not be a precursor for elimination.
We support Dr. Parvez Ahmed and the valuable and extensive knowledge and perspectives he brings to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

Mr. President, if the Jacksonville City Council aspires to carry Jacksonville to loftier heights through its leadership; then you should not allow the denial of Dr. Ahmed's nomination, and the obvious appearance of racism and discrimination, further tarnish the image of Jacksonville.

Isaiah Rumlin
President, Jacksonville Branch NAACP

From Community Foundation in Jacksonville

Earned our respect

As a nation, the United States is committed to the notion of equal opportunity, regardless of gender, race, creed or national origin.

At The Community Foundation in Jacksonville, we share that commitment.

Therefore, we are particularly offended and appalled by the decision of certain City Council members to obstruct the nomination of Parvez Ahmed to serve on the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

Ahmed has earned the respect of his peers locally and nationally. The University of North Florida professor is the recent recipient of a coveted Fulbright grant and has received the Outstanding Researcher Award three times from Coggin College of Business at UNF as well as the Outstanding Teacher Award.

More importantly, he has been a steady voice for reason and understanding among people of different faiths in the community.

In short, he is ideally suited for service on the Human Rights Commission.

We urge the reasoned and responsible representatives on City Council not to be hijacked by hysteria and misinformation, hatred and intolerance.

We urge them to support the nomination of Ahmed to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

chairman, The Community Foundation in Jacksonville

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