Chairman of Council on American-Islamic Relations resigns

Jul 12
Leadership Changes at CAIR
By TMO July 10, 2008

By Ayub Khan, MMNS

Dr. Parvez Ahmed has resigned from the chairmanship of the Council on American Islamic Relations citing family and professional reasons as well as disappointment with the pace of renewal and change in the organization.

Dr. Ahmed has been leading the national organization since 2005, and has also led its Florida chapter of the organization for four years. In an telephonic interview to the Muslim Observer Dr.Ahmed said that he retains his basic membership of CAIR and will continue to help the organization whenever he is called.

“I hope my departure will create an opportunity to accelerate the process of desired change,” he said.

When contacted for their reaction a CAIR representative issued the following statement: “We thank Dr. Ahmed for his contribution to the organization over the past three years and wish him the best in his future endeavors. Leading a non-profit organization is at best a difficult task and it is understandable that Dr. Ahmed wishes to devote more time to his career and family. There are always debates and discussions about the correct course for any organization. Ultimately, the majority of organizational stakeholders supported a vision for implementing change and growth that differed from that of Dr. Ahmed.”

Dr. Ahmed, a a business professor at the University of North Florida, said that his resignation is also due to his family commitments. He has two young home schooled children and they require more of his attention.

Dr. Ahmed plans to devote more of his time to his academic and research pursuits. He is working on two books-one on American Muslims and another on Mutual Funds. The latter will have a section on Islamic finance as it pertains to social responsibility.


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.
Ahmed said one of his unrealized goals was to transform the council into an organization that doesn’t sound anti-American when it’s criticizing government policies.

An example would be racial profiling, he said. In such cases the organization rightly criticizes the practice but routinely fails to work behind the scenes with government agencies to ultimately eliminate the practice.

Ahmed, a business professor at the University of North Florida, said his resignation has as much to do with a busy personal and professional life as it does with the council’s sluggish movement. He’s in the process of writing two books. And he said his children – a daughter, 11, and son, 7 – are beginning to require more of his time and energy for home schooling.

“I also wanted to send a message that a change in leadership is needed at the highest level, that we need some new blood at the board and executive levels,” he said.

Ahmed has been a member of the council since 1991 but got actively involved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Before that I was a very studious, quiet academic,” he said.

By October of that year he had formed Pennsylvania’s first council chapter and was named state chairman. In 2002 he had moved to Jacksonville to teach at UNF and was named chairman of Florida’s council. At the time it boasted a $70,000 annual budget, one small office and a single part-time staffer. Today, he said, the council has additional offices in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, 10 full-time employees and an annual budget of $900,000.

Although he will no longer be involved with the national council, Ahmed said he hopes it will devote more resources to demonstrating that Americans and Muslims share the values of peace, justice, understanding and inclusiveness. “The values of Islam and the values of America are complimentary.” (904) 359-4310

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