A Muslim leader who worked with teenagers was arrested Tuesday in a sex predator sting after he reportedly tried to have sex with a 12-year-old girl. Ahmed Saleem, a former community organizer for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Orlando, was arrested after he attempted to meet up with detectives posing as a girl.
The bust also saw 100 other people arrested after detectives in Polk and Lake counties in Florida posed as children between the ages of 12 and 14. They used a vacant house and chat forums to pose as a child, or someone looking for prostitution. Theme park workers at Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, and a Disney World cast member, were also arrested in the operation named "Operation: L and P" — for Lake and Polk counties.
“If we didn’t get you in this operation, you better be sure we will in the next one,” Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said. “We are after you. Leave our children alone.” He added: "These are very dangerous people and they are after our children."
Saleem traveled to meet the girl in a car with a license plate that read: “Invest in Children,” the Tampa Tribune reported. Saleem is founder of the Saleem Academy, an organization that seeks to empower Muslim youths. The academy’s website and Facebook page and the CAIR website deleted any mention of him on Wednesday.
"He's well known as a community outreach leader interacting with teens in and around the Orlando area," said Judd.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, was created as an "organization that challenges stereotypes of Islam and Muslims," according to its site. It works on civil rights and anti-defamation cases across the nation.
The state organization released this statement Wednesday: "CAIR Florida is shocked and deeply concerned by the serious crimes Ahmad Saleem is alleged to have committed. We trust in the legal system to hold to full account any and all persons found guilty. CAIR Florida takes the safety and security of the community very seriously and as such we attempt to thoroughly vet any potential employment candidates through standard hiring practices. Ahmad Saleem briefly worked for CAIR Florida as a community organizer for two months earlier this year until he abandoned his position in April. Accordingly, CAIR Florida removed him as an employee from our website and began recruiting a new candidate for the position prior to learning of the allegations against him."
The Muslim population in the Orlando metropolitan area grew from 2,691 in 2000 to 27,939 in 2010, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. There are roughly 20 Muslim congregations across Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties, reported the Orlando Sentinel.