Large Turnout Testifies to Community Support for CAIR-LA

Speakers at the CAIR Banquet

Anaheim, CA: Nearly 2,000 people attended the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Southern California Chapter’s (CAIR-LA) 10th Anniversary Banquet on Saturday, November 18.
The event attracted people from various ethnicities and backgrounds, including Muslims and people of other faiths such as Christians, Sikhs and Jews. Additionally, the event brought together mayors, city council members, chiefs of police, interfaith leaders and officials and representatives from Congress. Representatives from most Southern California Islamic centers and organizations were also present.
Hussam Ayloush , Executive Director of CAIR-LA, gave an overview of how a group of volunteers got together 10 years ago to work on behalf of the American Muslim community. Back then, the organization would get a few cases of harassment or profiling. But things changed after Sept. 11, and the entire community came under the spotlight. Even people perceived to be Muslim or Arab, such as Sikh or Latinos, became targets of prejudice and discrimination.
However, CAIR-LA representatives worked hard over the years, disseminating accurate information about Islam and American Muslims, and building bridges among the Muslim community, law enforcement and interfaith groups. CAIR-LA also helped do enormous work on civil rights issues, immigration reform, and other social justice issues.
“The challenges are still worrisome. Today, our world and country are polarized, more polarized than it has ever been in recent history,” Ayloush said. Offering words of hope to the audience, Ayloush added, “American Muslims are well-positioned to counter and defeat such plans by promoting a culture of dialogue and cooperation…”
At the event, community leaders and public officials also spoke on the significance of CAIR’s work. In line with the theme “American Muslims: Connecting & Sharing,” speakers vowed to work together in connecting and sharing resources, building bridges of understanding and combating hate and prejudice.
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez talked about the post-9/11 era, which was very difficult for the Muslim, Arab and Sikh communities. “I am incredibly hopeful that the days of ‘You are with us or you’re against us’ are finally gone. Let us begin a new era, not just an era of tolerance but an era of acceptance,” she said.
Ray Cordova, assistant to State Board of Equalization Chairman John Chiang (also State Controller-Elect) presented CAIR with a certificate congratulating the organization on its 10 years of continuous good work.
Orange County Supervisor Lou Correa talked about the importance of our communities’ vote. “If we continue to vote, if we continue to say, ‘We count. We as Americans, we as new Americans count,’ we will make a difference and we will continue to make our voices heard,” he said.
Other speakers included Assemblywoman Judy Chu; Assistant Director in Charge J. Stephen Tidwell, FBI - Los Angeles; and Anaheim Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Chavez.
Professor Sulayman Nyang of Howard University as well as Imam Siraj Wahhaj, of Masjid At-Taqwa in New York, gave keynote addresses. Wahhaj also conducted the fundraising portion of the event. CAIR-LA was able to raise $430,000 in funds, thanks to the generous support of the community.
For the first time this year, CAIR-LA also had a comedy segment by Mohammad Amer. In a light and humorous way, the 23-year-old comedian shared his experiences growing up as a Palestinian American and the challenges he faced as an Arab and Muslim American.
CAIR-LA’s accomplishments and work for the year were also highlighted at the banquet. This year, CAIR-LA handled 378 cases of discrimination against Muslims; conducted various workshops for the media, law enforcement agencies, and Muslim community; initiated a joint lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of American Muslims who suffered lengthy delays in acquiring their citizenship; and sponsored the ‘Explore the Life of Muhammad’ campaign, which resulted in the order of 18,000 books or DVDs on the legacy of Prophet Muhammad.
The evening concluded with a raffle drawing for airline tickets and Islamic antique pieces.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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