Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Convention

Muslim Matters

Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Convention

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

With the rise of Islamophobia, particularly on Talk Radio, and the shocking prevalence of anti Muslim hate crimes, the work of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) grows in importance with each year, not only for the Muslim community, but for the nation at large.

MPAC held a highly successful convention, its seventh annual convention, this past weekend at the Convention Center in Long Beach, Ca.

More than 1,000 people attended. Titled “Islam: A Call for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, the day long event featured workshops, plenary sessions and an evening banquet/fundraiser. A parallel Youth Session was also held. The event raised $456,000.

Haris Tarin, MPAC’s Community Development Director, opened the Convention with a reading of the Holy Koran. Prominent Muslim spokesperson, Senior Advisor to MPAC, and activist, Dr. Maher Hathout, spoke of the Muslim Code of Honor, initiated by the work of MPAC as a joint effort with Muslim scholars. The Code soon spread from its origins in Southern California. Highly regarded Muslim leaders took to the podium after introductions and spoke briefly about the Code of Honor and its significance.

The first plenary session reflected the theme of the Convention and was titled: “Choosing Life and Liberty over Death and Tyranny. The significance is two fold. Not only do these titles reflect the opening portion of the Declaration of Independence, they address and rebut the most recent attack on Islam: that it is a culture of death.

One of the panelists at that session, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, a scholar and the current President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), told of a recent experience with an Islamic critic. Toward the end of her presentation Dr. Mattson shared this experience with her audience. During an interfaith event a member of the audience asked in a confrontational manner how Dr Mattson could justify the Islamic treatment in Sudan of Gillian Gibbons. Dr. Mattson said that she turned the tables on her interrogator by asking him why she or any Muslim would be asked to justify it. She reminded him of a fellow Christian in Italy who contemporaneously with Ms Gibbons’ experience suggested that immigrant lawbreakers in Italy be placed in concentration camps based on the Nazi model. No one, she said, would ask a Christian how he would justify that.

The audience applauded in approval. The speakers were all enthusiastically received, and a lively question and answer session followed the presentations.

Three parallel interactive workshops followed. They dealt with MPAC’s project to counter Islamophobia “Truth over Fear”; helping Muslims to build successful coalitions, and facilitating the entry of Muslims into the American government infrastructure.

Attendees used the lunch break to discuss the morning’s discussions.

“Dr, {Ingrid} Mattson gave me some ideas for dealing with hostile questioners” said one young Muslim woman of student age, referring to Dr. Mattson’s presentation earlier in the day.

“Until this session I had underestimated the importance of the Code of Honor” said a non Muslim woman. “I can see now how very much needed it is”.

After lunch and Dhuhr prayer, the convention continued with a plenary session titled: “Shaping the Conversation”. Among the featured panelists was David Hiller, the CEO and Publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Hiller spoke of his interaction with MPAC through its Executive Director, Salaam Al Marayati, and the friendship that they formed. Recently they both attended a meeting of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Upon their return to Los Angeles Mr Hiller invited young Muslims — future leaders — to the Los Angeles Times office for a second Muslim American Youth Summit. The first such summit had recently been held in Washington, D. C., and there future Muslim leaders were able to meet many government officials and become familiar with the government infrastructure.


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