The best way to combat Islamophobia is to highlight the successes of Muslim-Americans, said Farooq Kathwari, chief executive of home furnishing firm Ethan Allen.
Kathwari, co-chair of the newly formed Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, was reacting to a February tweet from retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has been chosen as national security advisor by President-elect Donald Trump. Flynn wrote, in part, on Twitter "fear of Muslims is rational." Trump's team had vetted Flynn as a possible vice presidential running mate, NBC News reported in July.
"You have to be concerned about those kind of statements," Kathwari said Friday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
Kathwari said the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council — co-chaired by Stanley Bergman, chief executive of health care products distributor Henry Schein — is not aimed at talking about the people who are being discriminated against.
"What we want to talk about is to show the contributions of Jewish and Muslims in America," he continued. "The best way to building a brand is to show the positive contributions."
Kathwari also said he's glad the election is over because consumers did hold back some spending before the vote in the face of uncertainty, "but not as much as" he had thought would take place.
Since Trump was declared the winner, Kathwari has been encouraged by the rally in the stock market. "For our consumer, that's an important element and I believe that is going to help us really move forward."
While criticizing Flynn's tweet, Kathwari said, "The country needs change," adding in the past five to 10 years "we have stalled."
But change has "got to be done sensibly; it's got to be done with wisdom," he said.
A Muslim immigrant from India, Kathwari and his wife, Farida, donated $1 million in 2015 to Western Connecticut State University to support an honors program named for their son Irfan, who was killed in Afghanistan in 1992, according NewsTimes in Danbury.
Some web commentators accused Irfan Kathwari of being a radical Islamist because of his presence in Afghanistan during the turmoil in Soviet-backed Afghanistan. Kathwari said his son had been upset by the Russian invasion of the country and was in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to the NewsTimes.