Monday, April 5, 2004

Muslim activist office opens

By Liz Oakes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

AVONDALE - A Muslim advocacy group opened a Cincinnati office on Sunday at a reception that drew about 60 people from a variety of faiths, and even no faith.

Edwin Kagin, an official with the national American Atheist Center, drove from Union, Ky., to the open house to support the Council on American-Islamic Relations' effort.

"Everybody needs to get along," said his wife, Helen.

Officials with the council, a social and political activist group based in Washington, D.C., agree.

Karen Dabdoub, formerly director of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester, left that post a few weeks ago to lead the American-Islamic Council's third office in Ohio.

The other two are in Columbus, with about 30,000 Muslims, and Cleveland, with about 45,000, according to the council. Of the more than150,000 Muslims in Ohio, about 15,000 live in Greater Cincinnati.

At the Islamic Center, Dabdoub said, she sometimes would get calls from Muslims who had trouble getting time off work for holy days.

Some Muslims at the reception said they also see a need for the group to target bias.

Adele Johnson-Kebe, 35, of Springfield Township, who converted to Islam about five years ago, said she and others have faced difficulties over clothing.

At a traffic stop in Camp Washington a few months ago, Johnson-Kebe said, police told a Muslim friend who wears a veil that she couldn't have a driver's license unless it showed her entire face.

Her friend has driven with the veil for more than 30 years without a problem, Johnson-Kebe said.

Johnson-Kebe said she's sometimes gotten stares because of her head scarf.

"It's just a scarf," she said. "It's not an aardvark, it's not an iguana. I don't think it's prejudice; it's just ignorance."



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