ARAB-AMERICAN LEADER: DIALOGUE NEEDED WITH MUSLIMS
Vice-chair of Council on American-Islamic Relations speaks to local ACLU group
Dr. Ahmad Al-Akhras, vice-chairman of the national Council on American-Islamic Relations, spoke to Oberlin residents and members of the North Central Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Sunday to address the perceptions of Muslims in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"It's an issue important to all Americans," he said. "… Arabs and Muslims feel that they are second-class citizens."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations works as a grassroots civil rights organization to promote justice while encouraging dialogue to enhance an understanding of Islam.
Al-Akhras, of Columbus, also serves as president of the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio, and has spoken at more than 200 engagements, including as a guest speaker at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
He told the small crowd at the Oberlin Inn that negative stereotypes and perceptions of Muslims and Arabs have increased steadily since 2001, and stem from the religion's portrayal in the media and entertainment.
"There are the three Bs," he said. "Billionaires, belly dancers and bombers. Such portrayal makes it so easy to discriminate."
Al-Akhras said he's suffered the "humiliating treatment" as someone whose name pops up on the government's "watch list" whenever he travels, and "random" searches in airports have become expected delays.