Last year, CAIR-Florida documented a 500 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate incidents in Florida -- from threats to burn down mosques and kill Muslim children to physical assaults on immigrants and gunfire and vandalism targeting Muslim homes or places of worship.
An environment fertile for such hatred is created by letters to the editor like that published on April 19 by Harris Silverman, who took one verse translated from the Quran out of context and then falsely attributed two other statements to the Quran to demonize the Muslim faith.
By having double standards, lying, and taking things out of context, we can demonize any faith. But such tactics do nothing but sow seeds of division and inspire violence at a time our nation needs unity.
Besides, why would any American legitimize the fringe interpretation of extremists instead of the legitimate interpretation of 1.5 billion Muslims, 8 million of whom contribute positively to life in America.
Religions are not peaceful or violent. They are a set of ideas subject to human interpretation or application. Peaceful people express their religion peacefully and violent people express their religion violently.
CAIR's "agenda" is to work for a tolerant society where the U.S. Constitution is protected and honored and children of people of all faiths can grow up proud of who they are without fear of intimidation or harassment. We have a diverse team that defends the rights of all Americans regardless of race of religion.
Ignorance leads to misunderstanding which turns into fear that generates hate and inspires discrimination and even violence. Our aim is to prevent such a chain reaction, by encouraging people to let go of double standards, ignorance and taking things out of context, which is the basis for the ignorance that ultimately leads to hate.
I highly encourage readers to read the book "Thomas Jefferson's Quran" to better appreciate the positive impact the Quran had on our nation's heritage.
Hassan Shibly, Chief Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida Tampa