Southland Muslims Participate in 40th Annual Visit to Manzanar Internment Camp
CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush addresses the gathering
Anaheim, CA: On Saturday, April 25, the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), in cooperation with the Manzanar Committee, the Japanese American Citizens League and Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, led a group of some 100 Southern California Muslims on a daylong pilgrimage to a former internment camp known as the "Manzanar War Relocation Center."
Participants listened to former internees and their children share stories of internment at Manzanar during World War II, when the US government ordered about 120,000 Japanese-Americans to be held at 10 military-style camps, without ever allowing them any due process of law. Not a single internee was ever charged or convicted.
SEE: At Manzanar, fishing was the great escape (Los Angeles Times)
CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush reminded that Americans visit Manzanar and other Japanese-American internment camps to learn about our country's history.
"Innocent Japanese American men, women and children were incarcerated during WWII based solely on their ancestry - a reminder of how wartime hysteria and prejudice can lead to grave injustices," said Ayloush. "American Muslims pay tribute to the Japanese American community which has stood in solidarity with American Muslims when their civil rights were being suspended after 9/11."
Dr. Idris Traina, president of the Islamic Center of Hawthorne and a Manzanar visitor, said: "The annual Manzanar Pilgrimage rekindles shameful memories of our history but brings more hope for America's future, since we are reminded of the struggles of Japanese Americans who stood up to injustices and worked hard to gain respect and equal treatment of Americans."
On Saturday, visitors, including Muslim community leaders and students, also participated in interfaith ceremonies held at the Manzanar monument. Imam Ali Siddiqi from San Francisco Bay Area offered the Muslim prayer. Later in the evening, people visited the Manzanar Interpretive Center, which featured exhibits. Additionally, the Manzanar at Dusk program featured a screening of Ken Burns documentary "Manzanar - Never Again" and group discussion with former internees, who encouraged participants to stand up for justice and civil liberties.
Earlier this year, 40 high school students from Southern California participated in a series of cultural exchange to learn about the Islamic and Japanese cultures, with topics ranging from ethnic identity to civil rights activism. The program is the first of its kind in Southern California and serves to connect youth from the Japanese-American and American Muslim communities.