Some 2,000 people turned out on Saturday, November 7 for the 13th annual banquet of the Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations ( CAIR -LA). The event helped raise $432,000 to support CAIR -LA's civil rights and advocacy efforts.
This year's banquet was moderated by CAIR-LA Deputy Executive Director Ameena Mirza Qazi and former CAIR-LA Government Relations Director Omar Zaki.
Opening remarks at the banquet were delivered by California Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who encouraged Muslims to get civically engaged. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca thanked Muslim community members for their thoughts and prayers for victims of Fort Hood shootings.
Also present at the event were representatives from the offices of local, state and federal elected officials.
North Carolina Senator and CAIR National Chairman Larry Shaw and former Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America Muneer Fareed gave powerful keynote addresses. Moreover, Saratoga mosque's Imam Shaykh Alauddin El-Bakri spoke on the need for Muslims to be activists and support advocacy work.
Three awards were given at this year's banquet: 1. 2009 Courage in Media award to Dave Eggers, who authored "Zeitoun," a nonfiction account of Muslim American Abdulrahman Zeitoun, and his rescue efforts in the Katrina aftermath and subsequent detention and humiliation.
2. 2009 Bridge Builder award to Kathy and Abdulrahman Zeitoun, whose stories were documented in "Zeitoun," for building bridges of understanding.
3. 2009 Excellence in Leadership award to Rancho Palos Verde resident Atif Moon for his community service and being an inspiration to young Muslims despite his physical disability.
At the banquet, Eggers spoke about how the Zeitouns' values embody all American values.
"As far as I know, all American values are hard work, dedication to family, concern for one's neighbors, self-reliance, faith, honesty, a simple sense of goodness, and knowing when and how to do the right thing," Eggers said. "And so yes, Zeitouns are all-American in the truest and purest sense of the term. ...
"In writing Zeitoun, I tried to keep it simple and to do something that is often not done in American media when it comes to depictions of Muslims, I decided to tell the truth. We need more truth in the American media, truth about Islam , about what it stands for and doesn't stand for, and the truth is that in the Zeitoun family, we can all learn so much about courage, about perseverance, about decency, about family.
A highlight of the evening was a video about CAIR's ongoing engagement with the Muslim youth providing them the necessary tools to succeed personally and professionally.
SEE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKLnQjfTJvE CAIR-LA Executive Director Huss am Ayloush spoke about the new opportunities awaiting American Muslims to help contribute to and strengthen our nation.
"Today our work is not about merely protecting your rights to work, travel, and worship, although this is still a critical part of our mission. It is to a great extent, about carving our place in society, ensuring our seat at the table, even if a tiny minority wants us out.
"Like every American, we have the right to have a say in the affairs of our country, and we have a lot to say. We know how it feels to be unfairly suspected, to be an unwanted minority. That made us more committed to upholding our Constitution and passionately defending the rights and dignity of every person in America.
"We are here and we have something to offer. It is not about arrogance, but we are proud in our identity as American Muslims, and we have a lot to offer. And we will not allow anyone to marginalize us."
SEE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNJeRYaPkBY CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.