CAIR Annual Banquet in Sacramento
By Zaki Syed


Left to right: Edward Peck, Dave Jones and Fouad Khatib

Muslims are living in a modern civil rights era, and we have even got our own civil rights movement: CAIR. In the aftermath of 9/11 CAIR was the organization that led the way in being a media watchdog, educating the public about the true meaning of Islam, and protecting Muslims against the erosion of their civil liberties. All across the nation CAIR was being active, and with this in mind CAIR decided to hold its 4th Annual Banquet in Sacramento on Saturday, November 11, 2006.
The banquet brought together many lawyers, journalists, policemen, and local politicians such as Assemblyman Dave Jones. Jones has long been a friend of the Muslim community, even hosting an Iftar and fasting for a day during the month of Ramadan. On the same day as the CAIR banquet Jones attended a friend’s funeral, but drove back to speak at the CAIR Banquet. When asked why he attended, Jones replied, “I am a big supporter of CAIR because of the work they do for civil rights and liberties”.
Also present at the banquet was James J. Wedick, retired FBI Agent, who was a chief investigator for the defense of Umer Hayat and Hamid Hayat in the infamous Lodi terrorism case. His work and opinions on the case were recently telecasted on “Frontline.” Wedick did not receive any money for his work on the Lodi case, and said he simply took the case because he knew that the Hayats were not guilty of what the government said they did. “I’m getting to do what I always wanted to do as an FBI agent, help those who can’t help themselves,” said Wedick.


Left to right: Maren Shawesh, Richard Hanner, and James Wedick with CAIR official

It is for this reason that Wedick was awarded the Distinguished Service award by CAIR. Other recognitions awarded at the banquet were the Community Service award given to Dr. Metwalli Amer, Courage & Inspiration award for the Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers ( BAAML), Media award for the Lodi News-Sentinel, and the Youth award to Lilly and Nikky Mohanna.
On a lighter note a Pakistan Link reporter entertained the crowd with his freestyle raps and his performance was followed by a speeches from Assemblyman Dave Jones and the keynote speaker Edward Peck, former US Ambassador to Iraq.
Peck’s speech focused on relations in the Middle East and how by definition one cannot force democracy on others. The crowd was moved and awed by his sense of humor, and personal experiences applied to the current situation. Talking about the “War on terror” he said, “Terrorism is a war of poor who perceive injustice and want to defend themselves”. He emphasized that the problem of terrorism can be solved only by eliminating this perception (right or wrong) of injustice. Peck is a speaker in high demand as he had plans to speak at a seminar in Los Angeles the next day, and was crowded by numerous fans after his speech; they sought his thoughts on politics and various other topics.
The final speaker was Imam Aziz from the SALAM Center of Sacramento. Aziz talked about the pitfalls of profiling certain races, and the need for Americans to protect the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. “When somebody discriminates Muslims, they don’t just discriminate Muslims, but they discriminate Americans as well,” said Aziz.


Kais Menoufy (left) and Wazhma Mojaddidi, James Wedick and Pakistan Link reporter (right)

Aziz wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Wazhma Mojaddidi, the defense lawyer for Hamid Hayat in the Lodi Case, said that organizations such as CAIR were essential in preventing events such as the Lodi case from happening because they educate the non-Muslim community on the stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam.
“CAIR serves the community and beyond,” says Fouad Khalib, CAIR California Chairman. He is right, for when a Davis teen was wrongly accused of hit and run because she was a Muslim, CAIR answered the call. They were there to talk about hate crimes when a Muslim lady in Fremont, CA was killed in front of her kids. In the Lodi Case, CAIR was the first to arrive on the scene to offer help. In dealing with such cases CAIR does its part, bringing the real Islam to the American people straight from the heart. Allah only helps those who help themselves. So, remember when you help CAIR you help yourself!

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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