Attorney and president of CAIR-MI Haaris Ahmad. Photo credit: Siraj Usmani from Usmani Design.
By Aatif Ali Bokhari TMO Managing Editor
American Muslims and their allies packed the Burton Manor Banquet Center last Sunday in Livonia for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan 15th annual fundraising dinner. The keynote speaker was Professor Sherman Jackson, visiting from the University of Southern California.
CAIR-MI honored retired judge Adam A. Shakoor at the banquet with a community service award. Shakoor, who had been Rosa Parks’ attorney from 1995 until her death when he became her representative, had a record of taking on cases that helped the Muslim community. He later became the first Muslim judge in North America.
“I want to say to the young attorneys, service is a critical component of this wonderful profession of law,” said Shakoor, adding that the years he served as Parks’ attorney he “didn’t charge her one dime.”
Executive Director of CAIR-MI Dawud Walid spoke on how seeing the tears of students who cam together for a vigil and rally in honor of the three students killed in North Carolina reinforced his conviction that what CAIR did was necessary.
“I’m here to tell you today that the incidents that have happened today across the country should be making this out priority, not a secondary interest,” said Walid. At the same time, “justice does not mean ‘just us’. Justice cannot be all about one group. … Islamophobia is a branch on the tree of structural racism. If we do away with structural racism we do away with Islamophobia.”
Keynote speaker Jackson said, “I can’t tell you how precious this community is in terms of its brotherhood and sisterhood and potential. The reality is that due to Islamophobia in the short term things are likely to get worse for Muslims before they get better. … Let us prepare ourselves to take our rightful place in society but let us not be under any doubts that we face significant challenges ahead.
“For our community to make an impact in the long term we must be principled people, not people acting just on passing interests. When it comes to service we should not be mislead by short-term gains,” said Jackson.
Jackson warned the audience “not to be like the person who goes down in the manhole” and absorbs the stench of what is there but comes out unable to sense the smell him or herself. He said that non-Muslims can smell insincerity a long ways off and that Muslims should “not fall into the trap of seeing themselves as a special interest group.”
Jackson also touched on how Muslims treat each other. “One of the things we must get past is the tendency to engage in ‘gotcha Islam’. We need to be a community that builds up people not tear them down.
“I think we have to be very careful about needing to prove ourselves to society,” said Jackson. “Non-Muslim Americans have been given an understanding that all Muslims do must be from a strict adherence to Islam. As long as we are perceived that way society will be afraid of us. What we must do again is capture Islam as a civilization.”