CAIR (Sacramento Valley) Annual Fundraising Banquet
By Ras H. Siddiqui

 


Hon Betty Yee receives Distinguished Service Award

Under the theme of “Restoring the American Dream: Civil Rights and Community Empowerment”, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of the Sacramento Valley (SV) held its Third Annual Banquet on Saturday, November 12, 2005 at the Hilton Sacramento Arden West, to show its support groups its accomplishments and to recognize its friends in California’s Capital region who have helped CAIR in its work during the past year.

Dorothy Ehrlich
Joe Pitts
Imam Rodwan Saleh
Stephen T. Maganini
Soroush Rahimian
Muhammad Tariq

After the Qur’anic recitation and dinner, CAIR (SV) President Dr. Hamza El-Nakhal welcomed everyone. Dr. Pervez Ahmed, the current Chairman of the Board CAIR National, was the first to make a short presentation during which he outlined the important work that CAIR has been doing and its relevance to our lives in this country. Dr. Ahmed is a researcher and teacher of Finance at the University of Florida and also a prolific writer whose Op-Ed pieces dispelling stereotypes about Islam and Muslims have been published in major newspapers in America.

Dr. Pervez Ahmed
Dean Johansson
Betty Yee

Dorothy Ehrlich, Executive Director at the Northern California American Civil Liberties Union, in her keynote speech on “Civil Rights and Community Empowerment” touched on a number of issues that the Muslim community and other minorities remain concerned about. Dorothy also took the opportunity to recognize Rosa Parks whose recent death left millions saddened but has reminded us of where civil rights in America would be today if she had not shown her peaceful defiance.
CAIR (SV) Executive Director Basim Elkarra next took the opportunity to introduce locally active community members and praised the Sacramento area for its support. “This is a community that cares,” said Basim. “Care spelled CAIR.”
A video presentation of local CAIR accomplishments was presented and well received by all. From helping the Lodi Muslim community through a terror probe, engaging in Interfaith activity and assisting earthquake victims in South Asia, CAIR (SV) has had a great deal to show the community recently. “Faith in Action” being the CAIR motto here, the organization prefers to work in the American political mainstream as an active partner and not as a peripheral antagonist.
Local CAIR leader Rashid Ahmad elaborated further on the rights issue by presenting a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte on winning battles. “First we go there… Then we see what happens,” said Napoleon. He equated the quote to the quest for civil rights and stressed the need for adequate preparation (funds) to be properly equipped in what is sometimes a battle.

Banquet guests

Current CAIR California Chairman Fouad Khatib next discussed the importance of the CAIR Sacramento Chapter and its task of building the leadership of tomorrow in this very important state capital. “This can only be done in Sacramento (second only to Washington on the national level),” he said.
Before the formal task of raising money got underway, two young ladies from the local MSA announced another fundraiser for South Asian earthquake victims to be held on November 23rd.
Fundraisers like this banquet gathering need special speakers and inspirers to lead them. Rodwan M. Saleh, President of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), was a great choice for this role. Rodwan spoke of the greatness of America and the pursuit of the American Dream that many worldwide wished that they had an opportunity to attain. Bringing up the example of the late Rosa Parks, Rodwan asked where we would all be today if she had been silent and had given up her seat. He also brought up Dr. King’s words on injustice anywhere being injustice everywhere and added that freedom is not cheap and that our civil liberties are not guaranteed. With over $84,000 raised, it appears that people understood the importance of CAIR locally and listened.
The second keynote speaker was Joe Wise Pitts III, a lecturer at Stanford Law School and outgoing Chair Emeritus of Amnesty International USA. He is also President of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the national organization that helped spur almost 400 resolutions against the excesses of the Patriot Act and for the protection of civil rights.

A section of the Audience

Joe was certainly amongst many friends on this day as he started with “Salaamlaikum” and a quote for the era we live in by John McCain “It is always darkest before it becomes completely black.” Joe went on to mention that these are very hard times and that that the Patriot Act was now being expanded worldwide with other countries coming up with their own versions. He brought up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its importance today because windows of peaceful opposition are now being threatened. He proposed an ACT (Awareness, Communicate, Take Action) as the immediate to do for all Americans who are worried about the erosion of their rights. “Speak up. Take action for justice,” he said.
The annual CAIR (SV) Banquet is never complete without its awards presentation. This year the Distinguished Service Award went to The California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus which the Hon. Betty T. Yee, Acting Member, Board of Equalization received. The Asian and Pacific Islander Groups have lent tremendous support to our community here and this award was a small token of appreciation for them.
The Outstanding Community Service award went to the Rahimian Family. There to receive this award was young Soroush who represented the Rahimians; Javad and Shirin, Majid and Maryam and patriarch Dr. Ali. Whether it is the recent earthquake in South Asia or centers at local Sacramento State University or the UC Davis Foundation, the Rahimians have shared their success with the entire Sacramento community. And in the process they sure have made the Iranian-American and the local Muslim community proud.
And that brings us to the Fairness and Integrity in Media Award which went to Stephen T. Maganini, senior writer at the Sacramento Bee. Ever since 9/11 and recently during the Lodi terror probe, Steve (Stephen) has written numerous articles which have tried to balance the role of the local Muslim community in a positive way against the hype that the media in this country has been forced to generate ever since the murderous acts of September 2001. The fact that his last name is as difficult to pronounce as some of our own is not the only common ground we have. Seriously speaking, Steve has developed quite a fan club amongst the local Muslim community readership. And although we cannot always be of help to him in his article writing, his calls are always welcome. Steve (along with Fahizah Aleem) has created an open “Bee” communications channel not only with our local leaders such as Dr. Amer, Dr. Irfan Haq, Basim and Rashid Ahmad but between numerous Bee reporters and the rest of our community. It was great to see him recognized for his efforts in an era when American Muslims are not asking for favors but just fairness.
Civil Rights Attorney Dean Johansson received the Courage and Inspiration award this year. Dean has been instrumental in documenting many civil rights abuses, especially in the wake of the recent FBI investigation in Lodi. He is outspoken and some would say quite fearless in protecting the freedoms that he believes are being lost.

Local Asian Community

Last but not least the outstanding Youth Service Award went to Muhammad Tariq, a student at the local Grant High School (who just beat our local school in the football playoffs). Muhammad is a long-standing member of Masjid Ibrahim and has been a positive role model for many area Muslim and non-Muslim youth.
To conclude this report, two observations might be important. First, CAIR (SV) has done a wonderful job along with local mosques and Islamic centers in opening up our community to outside “non-Muslim” scrutiny, which has been beneficial for both. And the second observation that can be made is that in an era when (who would have thought) Amnesty International is talking about human rights inside the United States instead of in the rest of the world, events like this one highlight the importance of both funds and friends to face the fallout from terrorism, and a war that we Muslim Americans had no role in starting.

 


Media Award for Stephen Maganini.

 

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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