By Noor H. Salem
MLFA, the Muslim Legal Fund of America, a nonprofit organization designed to defend civil liberties in America held yet another dinner in Dearborn, MI Saturday night. The event was held at Adoba hotel, which was known as the Hyatt less than a year ago. The reception and appetizers began at 6:30pm, as scheduled, and around 7:20pm the program began with the recitation of the Quran. The MC, Tisha Saccarelli, immediately introduced the president and co-founder of MLFA, Khalil Meek. She briefly introduced his background to the audience, stating how he went from dreaming of becoming a minister until it all changed senior year in college. He was studying political religion and in 1989, he converted. He had an 18-year career in logistics and he is very active in his community along with his wife. Khalil Meek was then welcomed to the stage.
Khalil Meek began by praising Allah for freedom, liberty, and justice, a wonderful way to tie to the theme of the reception. He went on to remind the audience of the wonderful blessings they mustnâ€™t forget to be thankful for. Most importantly, he emphasized how just Allah is, and how Muslims are ordered to be just. He made it clear that the noble mission of MLFA is to fulfill and establish justice and emphasized on the fact that it is a charity, not a law firm. The goal of MLFA, which has been working since 2001, is to collect money from Muslims nationwide and hire attorneys to defend Muslims in the courtroom, he said. He reminded his fellow audience how MLFA grew in popularity, through people hearing about them from the local cases. Mouthana Al Hanooti is one example of the many Muslims whose case was settled with the help of MLFA here in Detroit, MI. Khalil reminds us MLFA is a public cause, providing resources to defend an organization, community leader, or imam. Khalil gives us a deeper note of his background, and how he was born into a Baptist family and states â€œI wanted to convert the Muslim worldâ€. He now says how proud he is of Muslims and this community, and how much it hurts him to see Muslims being treated the way they are in the U.S. and the legal system. He also notes how he loves this country, its values, principles, and the fact that we have freedom of religion, a constitution, Bill of Rights, and an open and transparent form of government with checks and balances. He gives us deep insights of laws passed that many are unaware of, including the material support statute. It states as a U.S. citizen youâ€™re not allowed to send any material support to a terrorist organization, and how the government used this to target Muslim organizations. The Holy Land Foundation is a popular example, which was a huge charity for food, medicine, and supplies all over the world. After 9/11 former president Bush chooses to say itâ€™s supporting terrorist organizations and shuts the Holy Land Foundation down. After the FBI investigated every penny spent from the organization, four years later they decide that indeed all the money went to aid for food and supply. This organization is among many Muslim organizations targeted, prosecuted, and jailed unjustly.
He reminds us of the wonderful story of the Jewish prostitute in the desert; she decided to take off her shoe, put it in the well and give it to a thirsty dog to save its life. Simply because of this act, Allah granted her Paradise, and this was her compassion towards a dog. Imagine the reward of helping those humans treated unjustly. It was a wonderful way to end his remarks.
Next greeted to the stage was the first Keynote speaker, Thomas Drake, who happens to be a former senior executive for U.S. National Security Agency. His story was yet a shock for all. He tells us that his message is a troubling message, but also a message of hope. He begins wonderfully connecting to his audience stating: I stand before you as a fellow American. I stand before you as also a fellow human being with inalienable rights like freedom of speech, freedom of press, practice of faith and assembly. He asks the rhetorical questions: â€œHow much freedom do we let disappear for the sake of security? How much liberty do we forsake for people to feel safe?â€ He tells his story of how he became an enemy of the state, being a Christian, yet became one which the state did all they can to put him away. â€œWhat did I do, you ask? To become enemy of the state?â€ He stood up for the truth. He remarks that justice rights wrongs, turns over injustice, and secures liberty so our freedom doesnâ€™t get taken away. Simply stated, he was indicted on 10 felony counts, for false statements, and was looking at 25 years in prison. He spent 4 years struggling, gave up his house, his retirement money and everything he had to pay $500 an hour to an attorney. He finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel and says that he began to appreciate what he had in life. In June of 2011, his case collapsed with no fine and no jail time. Thatâ€™s the message of hope, he says. â€œOur very liberties are the foundation of our securityâ€, he goes on to say. He emphasized how justice can push back injustice and one can prevail to freedom. He reminds us how he was used as an example to keep his mouth shut with the truth. â€œDonâ€™t speak truth to power, or we will hammer you, and hammer you hardâ€. Drake uses Martin Luther King as a wonderful example of fighting for civil rights. MLK said â€œinjustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhereâ€. It cannot be ended in better terms.
After a dinner sponsored by La Feast, fundraising took place, gathering donations to keep this civil rights organization moving. Around 9:45pm the second keynote speaker, Coleen Rowley, was welcomed to the stage. She was a former FBI agent and is now on the MLFA Board of Directors. She states how itâ€™s a good thing that our law requires facts. She was a whistleblower and told the truth about lapses. She wrote many memos about the truth behind the invasion of Iraq. She ends with a marvelous quote: â€œItâ€™s dangerous to be right when the government is wrongâ€. She says itâ€™s a duty not to restore rule of law.
The reception ended around 11 pm. Many were present and supportive from all over the community.