SYRACUSE, N.Y., Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Critics are calling into question Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner's decision to appoint Mark Muhammed, a member of the Nation of Islam, to the school board.
"Mark is a positive influence on our community and has been for many years," said Miner in a statement. "I am confident he will go on to do good work for the children and families of the school district."
The Nation of Islam, a religious group led by Louis Farrakhan and focused on the improvement of African American standards of living, is tracked as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"I hope Mr. Muhammad is more agreeable than the hate-filled rants heard by the Nation of Islam leader, Mr. Farrakhan," said Caleb Bonham, of education watchdog group Campus Reform. "Our campuses, our universities, our school boards need less hatred and racial division. We are desperate for leaders who, with a pure heart, are interested in educating children and young adults without politics or agendas."
Many members of the Syracuse community also stated their concern at Muhammed's association with the group. Bob Gardino, a retired teacher, wrote, "The swiftness and opaqueness of the appointment signal the belief that politics was key."