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An African-American Elected as CAIR Chairman

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), nation's leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, on March 3, 2009 elected an African-American as its new board chairman.

North Carolina State Senator, Larry Shaw replaces Dr. Parvez Ahmed, an Indian-American and a professor of the University of North Florida, who was elected CAIR chairman in May 2005. Omar Ahmad, a Palestinian-American, was the founding president of CAIR that was established in 1994.

In a statement, CAIR's Larry Shaw said he looks forward to "partnering"  with the Obama administration to protect civil liberties and to help improve America's international image.

Shaw is a long-standing member of the North Carolina Senate General Assembly and a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives General Assembly. He also serves as the chairman of the Transportation Committee and vice-chairman of the Finance Committee. Shaw was the country's highest-ranking Muslim elected official before the election of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) in 2006. Prior to becoming a public official, Shaw gained extensive business experience in the food service industry. He has served on CAIR's national board for three years.

In September of 2003, the six-term legislator was elected as vice-chairman of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus of the state's general assembly.

As of 2006, State Del. Saqib Ali (D-MD) and State Rep. Saghir "Saggy" Tahir (R-New Hampshire) were the only other Muslims to have been elected to state legislatures in the United States. Shaw is however the longest serving Muslim, serving a total of 14 years. He was first elected in to the North Carolina House in 1994.

In a statement after his election, Senator Shaw said:

"CAIR exists to uphold the right to liberty that Americans are guaranteed under the Constitution. We will challenge any attempts to erode constitutionally-protected liberties. We will also continue to work to ensure that American Muslims play a positive and productive role in our society.

"In carrying out our mission of promoting justice and mutual understanding, we honor and will continue to learn from groups who have faced similar challenges, including African-Americans, Asian-Americans and many others.

"CAIR embraces the cultural and religious pluralism that is a hallmark of America and repudiates any misuse of Islam to falsely justify violence or intolerance.

"We look forward to partnering with the Obama administration to help defend civil liberties and to project to the world the best of our nation's universal, constitutional and pluralistic values of freedom and justice." 

The CAIR focuses on defending the civil rights of Muslims, defending Islam against stereotypes and training Muslims in news media relations. According to The Florida Times, CAIR is perhaps the most well-known Muslim organization in the nation, celebrated by some, bashed by others and not afraid to take on government, business and the media when it feels Muslim rights are endangered. It has 32 chapters in a dozen states and a paid staff of about 50.

The organization has blown the whistle on anti-Muslim violence, battled governments over the right of Muslim women to wear head scarves in driver's license photos and worked with companies such as Nike and Dell to establish workplace religious freedoms.

CAIR issues reports annually about the civil rights condition of American Muslims and anti-Muslim incidents. It began documenting anti-Muslim incidents following the 1995 attack on the FBI Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh.

"This is a critical time in our nation's history, a time that requires change and renewal," said Nihad Awad, Executive Director and co-founder of CAIR. "I welcome Senator Shaw as CAIR's new chairman and believe he will be a key player in broadening the dialogue on issues of importance to our nation, from civil rights to political participation and interfaith relations." 

 

Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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