As part of one of the challenges that I signed up for on Media Cause, I decided to highlight CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) Florida’s work to foster tolerance in the Tampa, Florida. Here are a few questions that Hassan Shibly, CAIR Florida’s Tampa Executive Director, was kind enough to answer via e-mail:
When and how was CAIR Florida born?
CAIR Florida was born ten years ago to promote an accurate understanding of Islam and the American Muslim Community in Florida. We are a grass roots civil rights and media advocacy organization supported exclusively by local member contributions.
What are some of the current issues regarding American-Islamic relations?
There is an unfortunate rise in acceptable Islamophobia. Extremist speakers are being given the stage by groups like the Tea-Party to spew anti-Muslim hatred. They are also calling for limiting the rights of American Muslims. This hatred and bigotry threatens the very Bill of Rights for all Americans. American Muslims seek to promote tolerance, understanding, and civil rights, thereby defending the Bill of Rights for all Americans.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities you face, from the transition of an advocacy office to a legal entity?
Just balancing our workload. We believe that by engaging the media and public at large we can foster an environment where bigotry and discrimination is not tolerated. Thus our advocacy work is critical. However, until that time, being able to offer legal civil rights work is necessary. Our advocacy work is preventive and our civil rights work is responsive. We hope to have three lawyers on staff by the end of the year to defend the Bill of Rights and help enforce the Civil rights Act for the Tampa community.