CAIR-FL: SPEAKING OUT FOR MUSLIMS
Ahmed Bedier is behind much of the publicity surrounding a new documentary premiering tonight about Sami Al-Arian's prosecution. It's Bedier's latest exposure to Tampa Bay area media.
He has been the face of the area's Muslim community for the past several years. As executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is co-sponsoring the film's Tampa showing tonight at 7:30 at the Tampa Theatre, Bedier, 33, has worked to dispel stereotypes and promote understanding of the Islamic community.
He is a go-to source for the media, and he receives about 50 to 100 calls a day from members of the community.
"It's a tremendous responsibility," he said. "You're constantly in the spotlight, and people are often critical on both sides."
People of many faiths say he is an eloquent leader - and not a person who hates.
But some of his critics question his organization's motives. They also disagree with Bedier's feelings about Israel and his continued support of Al-Arian.
In a post-Sept. 11 world, where Muslims face religious persecution and lack equal employment opportunities, Bedier said, he wants to step up to create a better, more open-minded world for his community and his two - soon to be three - children.
Bedier, who works about 80 hours a week, gained increased attention by taking up the Al-Arian case as a Muslim cause.
Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide help to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is designated a terrorist group by the United States.
Bedier said he has never met Al-Arian but that he spoke up for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"A lot of people took it that I was Sami's spokesman or defender," he said. "I wasn't doing any of these things. I was defending the Constitution. I was advocating for due process."