JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nominee Parvez Ahmed has been appointed to Jacksonville's Human Rights Commission following weeks of debate in the community about his connections.
The nomination was appproved in a 13-6 vote. "Dr. Ahmed, you've earned by vote. It's 2010...I cannot think of someone with more courage," one councilman said.
Ahmed's nomination has been contested since the group ACT! for America raised concerns over his past, which includes being the chairman of the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Tonight, when Ahmed took the podium during the meeting to answer questions, Councilman Don Redman asked him to say a prayer to his God.
He also questioned him about the meeting's opening prayer and whether or not it offended him.
Ahmed responded that how he felt about the prayer was irrelevant. "People do have the right to pray according to their beliefs," he said.
Just before the council voted, Councilman Reginald Brown wondering if the religious-related question had violated any laws.
Councilwoman Glorious Johnson said she was worried about how divisive Ahmed's nomination had become. "How effective can Dr. Ahmed be in the Human Rights Commission?"
But Councilman Kevin Hyde said possible controversy was no reason to reject the nomination.
Ahmed had the support of the city council's Rules Committee, which last week approved his nomination 4-1, with Clay Yarborough casting the lone dissenting vote.
Mayor John Peyton, and former mayor John Delaney, who is now president of the University of North Florida where Ahmed is a professor, both support him.
But opponents like Glenn Lord, a member of the People's Tea Party, are concerned about Ahmed's connections. "He has connections to groups that have funded terrorism. The connections are there, that's what we are saying," Lord said.
Ahmed has responded that his critics know very little about him.
"The allegations are being made by people who have never met me or worked with me or are familiar with the entire body of my work," he said. "As such, their allegations do not deserve any response or merit any serious considerations."
First Coast News