Nearly 2000 Attend CAIR-LA’s 17 th-Annual Banquet

Nearly 2,000 people turned out for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA) 17th Annual Banquet on Saturday, November 16. The event helped raise about $390,000 in support of CAIR-LA's civil rights and advocacy work.

Themed "Faith in Freedom," this year's banquet featured several notable figures who have been dedicated to challenging injustice and protecting freedom for all communities.
Among them was Loretta Sanchez (D-CA 46th district), who has consistently supported legislative efforts aimed at preserving civil rights and promoting tolerance.

“We have fought together, we have broken bread together, we have marched together and we’ll continue to be together,” Sanchez said, referencing the strong ties between CAIR-LA and her office. “We were together when we fought and when I voted against the Patriot Act. We were together when some of my colleagues in the Congress said no to Muslim staffers. We were together when we demanded that your community be able to serve in the US House of Representatives and the Senate.”

Additionally, there were a number of mayors and city officials present including Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva , as well as interfaith leaders, and imams and representatives from almost all of the Southern California Islamic Centers and mosques.

Executive Director and co-founder of CAIR-National Nihad Awad highlighted some of CAIR's key accomplishments over the past year, including the release of its 2013 Islamophobia report called “Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States.”

Chicago-based playwright and solo performance artist Rohina Malik captivated the audience as she performed acts from her critically-acclaimed one-woman play “Unveiled.” The play, comprising a series of monologues delivered by five different Muslim women, explored issues related to tolerance, equality and diversity in America.

In one scene, Malik illustrates the type of demonization and discrimination that Muslims, and other minority groups such as Sikhs, routinely faced in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In one scene, Malik played a Muslim victim of a hate crime. The character’s mother insisted that her daughter testify and stand up for justice, telling her “Never say, ‘Why me?’ Instead, say, ‘What for?’”

Renowned journalist, political commentator and author Glenn Greenwald delivered an earnest keynote address in which he underscored the value of CAIR's work in safeguarding civil liberties and upholding the constitutional rights of all citizens.
"By allowing [civil rights abuses] to happen to American Muslims now, we allow the civil liberties of all Americans to be degraded and threatened,” Greenwald said in his keynote address. “That’s why I really think that there’s no more patriotic work than the work that CAIR does which is defending the civil liberties of American Muslims, which in reality is tantamount to defending the core constitutional liberties of all Americans and ultimately defending the defining attributes of the United States.”
Greenwald added that “when it comes to organizations that are standing up for these political values, there really are none more effective and more steadfast than CAIR.”
Attendees also heard from Ehtesham Mirza , one of the founding members of the Islamic Center of South Bay in the city of Lomita. Mirza was presented with the “Faith in Freedom” award, which he accepted on behalf of his mosque community's success in securing a permit to rebuild its facilities after a five-year battle with the city.
Executive Director Hussam Ayloush expounded on the importance of the CAIR's work in protecting civil liberties, challenging bigotry, and upholding equality for all communities. Recognizing the critical role that youth play in society, Ayloush announced CAIR-LA’s launch of its new youth development department. The focus of this department is to work with CAIR-LA's partners to help develop, train, and empower present and future leaders in the American Muslim community.
“There is truly no empowerment without youth empowerment,” said Ayloush. “And there’s actually no community without an engaged and empowered youth.”
Ayloush's speech was followed by a viewing of CAIR-LA’s 2013 Annual Video.
Lastly, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, religious director of At-Taqwa Mosque in New York, inspired American Muslims to continue to support civil rights advocacy work.
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.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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