By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
The Council on American Islamic Relations in Los Angeles (CAIR-LA) held a highly successful banquet and fundraiser this past Saturday evening. More than two thousand people filled the banquet hall at the Anaheim Hilton in Anaheim, Ca. to help CAIR-LA celebrate its tenth anniversary as a chapter of one of the nationâ€™s premier civil rights organizations.
The theme of the event was: American-Muslims: Connecting and Sharing.
Two well known speakers, celebrated in Muslim and non-Muslim circles, addressed the audience. Imam Siraj Wahhaj of Masjid Taqwa in New York served also as a fundraiser. Imam Wahhaj has been the vice president of the Islamic Circle of North America (ISNA) since 1997. After accepting Islam he received Imam training at Ummul Qura University in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Imam Wahhaj is also on the national Board of CAIR. He has received praise from the media and the NYPD for initiating an anti-drug patrol in Brooklyn, New York.
He pointed proudly to a book by Islamophobe Paul Sperry in which both he and CAIR were the subject matter. Despite the attempt at opprobrium on the authorâ€™s part, the Imam was proud of the description he and CAIR received. Imam Wahhaj spoke of African American pioneer baseball champion, Jackie Robinson, who overcame obstacles to be the first of his race to play on a major league team. We should also regard Congressman elect, Keith Ellison (D, Minn.), the first Muslim to be elected to the national legislature, as a pioneer.
The Imam described CAIR as a city of bridges, a civil rights group that made it possible for Muslims to stand up and not hide their faith.
Dr. Sulayman S. Nyang of Howard University in Washington, D. C. is a professor of African studies. He was the Lead Developer of the â€œAfrican Voices Projectâ€ for the Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute. He is a prolific author and a much sought after speaker here and abroad within Muslim and interfaith circles.
A video presentation introduced the audience to the dedicated people who staff the CAIR-LA office.
Fouad Khatib, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of CAIR, said that after the tragedy of 9-11, Muslims did not buckle. We took a strong stand on terrorism whilst standing firm on civil rights.
CAIR was a co-plaintiff with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) when the constitutionality of warrantless wiretapping was challenged. When the President used the term Islamofacist, Muslims publicly challenged him on his words. We Muslims will never accept that term.
We knew that CAIR had to have grass roots activism and had to have a presence on Capitol Hill.
The audience applauded with the announcement of the fourth chapter of CAIR in California in the city of San Diego.
Hussam Ayloush needed no introduction. He spoke of the successes of CAIR and its opposition to racial profiling, hate speech and hate crimes and the entire industry spawned by Islamophobia. The number of anti-Islamic incidents skyrocketed after 9-11.
In a stirring film, the audience saw the work of CAIR illustrated. Hate speech was countered and an educational program on the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) and the Koran was launched. An internship program has been initiated to train young Muslims to function in Sacramento. CAIR-LA is sought after by all media outlets as a source of information and commentary when issues involve Muslims.
CAIR-LA partners with law enforcement on advisory boards of the FBI (Los Angeles) and the Los Angeles County Sheriffâ€™s Department.
Dignitaries praised CAIR during the course of the evening. They included J. Steven Tidwell, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and California State Assemblywoman Judy Chu.
For more information on CAIR-LA the office may be accessed at: www.cair-california.org or firstname.lastname@example.org. The postal address is: 2180 W. Crescent Avenue, Anaheim, Ca. 92801, Ste F. The telephone number is: (714) 776-1847.