On Saturday, August 16 the office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles area hosted a day-long civil rights conference themed "Setting the Standard, The Right to Remain Silent, The Obligation to Speak" at the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley (ICSGV) for high school and college students. The aim of the conference was to educate young aspiring activists about the need to protect and preserve civil liberties and provide them with the tools necessary to achieve them.
The conference attracted student activists from across Orange County, Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire.
CAIR-LA Youth Development Coordinator, Zienab Abdelgany welcomed the attendees and participants to the masjid's banquet hall with introductory remarks followed by an interactive session on how to effectively deconstruct and combat negative stereotypes. The participants earnestly shared creative ways to break down misconceptions and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.
Following this session was a presentation on the history and evolution of civil liberties in America, presented by CAIR-LA Senior Civil Rights Attorney, Fatima Dadabhoy. From the very first Civil Rights Act to become law in America to today's struggle to protect and preserve civil liberties, the presentation detailed the journey and struggle that minority groups in America have encountered or continue to encounter and how the Muslim community shares a similar journey.
Dadabhoy explained that collective efforts can allow us to attain the civil rights we deserve as American Muslims and to be able to preserve it for future generations to come.
After Duhr prayer and lunch, the group reconvened for an interactive session on effective advocacy presented by CAIR-LA Public Affairs Coordinator, Haroon Manjlai. The presentation entailed different avenues to effectively organize and discuss the various tools that can be used to ensure that American Muslims' voices are heard by their elected representatives and public officials.
A unique element of this civil rights conference was the fact that each of CAIR-LA's Summer 2014 interns presented on their findings of various topics over the course of their internship. Some presented on common scenarios of civil rights American Muslims struggle to attain, while others presented on various avenues to become effective student activists by utilizing and engaging the college campus community and resources.
Participants brought the conference to a closure by discussing amongst themselves, an action plan of how they intend to use the new skills and tools acquired to bring about positive social change in their respective communities.