Congressman Keith Ellison Congratulates Community for Upholding the Great American Tradition of Freedom of Religion
By Dr. A. Khan
Chicago , IL : Muslim Educational & Cultural Center of America (MECCA) held its second annual fundraising dinner on Sunday, May 8, at Ashyana Banquets, Woodridge, Illinois. The project MECCA has been in the national and international headlines recently because the organizers had to strive very hard to get a zoning permit to build a mosque in Willowbrook , Illinois. Finally, after a long scrutiny, on March 22, 2011, the DuPage County zoning board signed off on a scaled-back revised proposal of MECCA mosque by approving a conditional-use permit 13-5.
The Chicago Tribune wrote an editorial in favor of the MECCA mosque and the New York Times mentioned the project twice in its reports.
The theme of the fundraising event was "A Time to Be Grateful." Yaser Tabbara was master of ceremonies. He acknowledged the hard work of the fundraising committee members - Akrum Ahmed, Saleem Atassi, Mohamad Chehade, Abdulgany Hamadeh, Bassam Osman, Dr. Syed Ajaz Hussain, Bashar Kashlan, Professor Usman Ghani, Nadia Malik, Dr. Khursheed Mallick, Lubna Farooq, and Faisal Mehmood - in making the event a reality.
The program started with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an by Sheikh Abu Fayyad; Sarah Jaber read the translation. Recitation was followed by a welcome address by Dr. Abdulgany Hamedah, president of MECCA. He observed that it was time to be thankful to Allah (SWT) that He blessed us with such a great community that was so generous and involved in MECCA; as many know, after a long hard process, DuPage County voted to approve the construction of the MECCA center. He thanked the members of the DuPage County Board for listening to “our case and granting the approval; we thank our interfaith partners for their tremendous help and support, including area Christian and Jewish leaders, as well as United Power and DuPage United.” Dr. Hamedah thanked the entire Muslim community in the Chicago area for their support for the project, especially the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, CIOGC.
Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago, was the keynote speaker. In his speech, he expounded on the pro-active role of the American Muslim community in the post-9/11 era. He said that the American Muslim Community has successfully disproved and invalidated the "West versus Islam" and "Clash of civilization" clichés. The community has played a key role in preventing the spread of anti-Muslim fears. He said that our legacy is based on the recognition of the Creator and serving His creation. He remarked, “When we see injustice, we cannot sit idle; we have to work actively to promote peace and justice.”
Reflecting on Ahmed Rehab's sentiments, Yaser Tabbara, the master of ceremonies, addressed the fears of the opponents of the Mosque project and said that they need to “look at our reality, at our participation, at our mosques, they need to participate in our community activities; we are an asset to the American fabric and not a threat.”
Congressman Keith Ellison (5 th Congressional District of MN) was the invited guest. He congratulated the community for standing up for their rights; he said that standing up is about American idea of freedom of religion. He said that America is a great country and it is ensured in the American Constitution that Congress shall make no law in establishing a religious government. Referring to the community's recent struggle in getting a zoning permit to build a mosque in Willowbook, he said that by standing up and fighting for rights you have given a lesson in civics. He also analyzed the current situation; he said that nowadays, in America there is fear and anxiety about the economic growth of China and India, and a feeling that better days are behind us, but if you stand up for your rights then America's better days are ahead. He said that America is a great country with a great tradition of religious freedom. He cited the example of anti-Muslim fears in England and Switzerland. He said that in Switzerland they passed a law against raising a minaret in mosques. He also said that in Turkey, where the population is ninety-nine percent Muslim, Friday prayers are not allowed in the government office buildings. In contrast, we in the Congress offer Jumah prayers under the dome every Friday.
After Congressman's address, a video tour of the Masjid project was presented by Rany Jazayerli, Secretary of MECCA Board. He informed that construction of MECCA will be completed in two phases: in the first phase the Masjid and gym will be constructed, and in the second phase a school will be built. The estimated cost of MECCA project is $ 6.4 million.
After the video tour, the fundraising exercise was conducted by Sheikh Kifah Mustapha. A large number of community members attended this event and through their generosity one million dollars were raised to get the project started. After the dinner, students of MECCA Sunday School presented a Mother's Day program. The program concluded with Duaa (prayer) offered by Mohamad Rachid, Islamic Director of MECCA.