Yasser Moten grew up loving his Islamic religion, but hating the negative stereotypes some associated with it.
As an adult, he decided he could continue being frustrated or try to do something to change those perceptions.
So when he heard the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, was opening a Las Vegas office and looking for an executive director, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I wanted to help people understand Islam, to be educated about what it is and isn’t,” the 27-year-old Valley High School and University of Nevada, Las Vegas grad said.
Part of CAIR’s stated mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, whose followers say is an often misunderstood religion.
CAIR is also a civil rights group that steps in to help Muslims who have been the targets of discrimination.
But CAIR has faced its share of controversy, and not everybody is welcoming the chapter with open arms. . .
CAIR has defended itself on its Web site with a page titled “De-Mystifying ‘urban legends’ about CAIR.”
Moten said CAIR condemns all acts of terrorism and prides itself on its strong relationship with law enforcement.
“If anyone has any concerns about our organization, I’ll go with them to the FBI,” he said.
Local FBI spokesman David Staretz said his office welcomes CAIR to the community.
“We understand that they have an important mission in increasing the awareness of the Islamic culture,” he said. “We look forward to building a relationship with them.”
CAIR is a nonprofit with 33 offices and chapters nationwide. It has ties with other civil rights organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It’s an organization that is deeply committed to principles of fairness and equality,” said Gary Peck, ACLU of Nevada’s executive director. “They’re interested in ensuring that everyone’s basic rights are respected.”
Peck commended CAIR for supporting the ACLU in its representation of Steve Riback, a Metropolitan Police Department detective who filed a federal lawsuit against the department after he was prohibited from wearing a cap or beard in observance of his Orthodox Jewish beliefs. (MORE)