A civil-rights attorney and Muslim convert will head the Orlando chapter of CAIR, the nation’s largest advocacy group for Muslims.

Danette Zaghari-Mask becomes CAIR-Orlando’s executive director today. In that role, she’ll oversee an office that has seen heavy turnover. Two directors have left since the Parramore Avenue office opened in February 2006.

“I’m definitely going to bring stability,” Zaghari-Mask said.

Her main focus will be continuing the agency’s community outreach. Last year, CAIR had a forum in Brevard County after a Muslim man was shot at when he stepped out of a mosque to use his cell phone. Five shots were fired, one just missing the man’s head.

Zaghari-Mask said that in Central Florida, Muslims’ most common complaint is not that they have been victims of hate crimes but, instead, of employment discrimination.

Masuma Virji, president of the United Muslim Foundation, a community organization based in Lake Mary, said Zaghari-Mask “will be able to fight for civil rights of Muslims here in Central Florida.”

Zaghari-Mask, who is moving from Gainesville, is no stranger to the area. She was born and raised in Winter Garden.

“When I asked my dad our heritage, he would say, ‘We are from the South; that’s all you need to know,’ ” Zaghari-Mask said.


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