Nearly 1,800 Attendees at CAIR-LA's 19th Annual Banquet

Nearly 1,800 people turned out on Saturday at the Anaheim Hilton to attend the 19th annual banquet of the Greater Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA). During the event, supporters donated some $460,000 in support of CAIR-LA's civil rights and advocacy work.
I n light of the recent tragic events in Paris, Beirut, Ankara, Syria and Iraq, CAIR-LA began the program with an interfaith prayer vigil to mourn the loss of the victims and their loved ones affected by the recent ISIS terror attacks. Interfaith leaders from across Southern California joined in solidarity to pray for humanity. The prayer was led by Dr Muzammil Siddiqi, the Religious Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County.

With the theme,  "Strengthening Our Voices, Advancing Together," this year's banquet featured courageous voices whose involvement with the Muslim and broader communities reflect their commitment to their faith's values of unity, peace and equality for all. 
One of the most influential American Muslim scholars in the nation, Dr Sherman Jackson was the keynote speaker of the night. 
Dr Jackson delivered an earnest keynote address in which he underscored the value of CAIR's work in empowering the American Muslim community to actively contribute to positive social change for America and for all people.
CAIR-LA awarded Dr Suzanne Barakat the "CAIR-LA Resilience Award." 
Dr Barakat is the sister of Deah Barakat who was tragically murdered in February 2015 with his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her younger sister Razan Abu-Salha. Amid the tragic killings, Dr Barakat emerged as one of the prominent American Muslim figures, acting as the lead voice for her family and American Muslims at-large, challenging the ignorant hate and fear of Islam and Muslims.
Barakat's on-stage presence and award acceptance was received with a standing ovation. 
Dr Barakat gave a brief message to the attendees about the value of American Muslims being involved and engaged with the broader American community as an antidote to the widespread Islamophobia in America. She offered that more personable and human interactions between Muslims and others will help to defuse the ignorance and biases people may have against Islam and Muslims and help enhance their understanding of the faith of Islam.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush expounded on the importance of CAIR's work in protecting civil liberties, challenging bigotry, and upholding equality for all communities.

Banquet attendees watched a   short video  summarizing CAIR's work locally and nationally. The film highlighted this year's greatest challenges the American Muslim community faced including the Ahmed Mohamed case, anti-Islam rallies in Arizona and CAIR's unprecedented wins like Samantha Elauf's Hijab case that were able to come to fruition due to the unwavering support of the community. 
Followed by the short video, Dr Altaf Hussain, Vice-President of ISNA, spiritually inspired the attendees to recognize their important role in supporting CAIR's civil rights advocacy work. 

A number of city and state officials were present including US Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, US Congressman Alan Lowenthal, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, and Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen,   who spoke about the significant contributions of American Muslims and CAIR's role in being a leading advocate for advancing justice and mutual understanding. Interfaith leaders, imams and representatives from various Southern California Islamic Centers and mosques were in attendance as well.
In accordance with the banquet theme, a number of spoken word artists performed profound pieces throughout the evening about the struggles and challenges of being American Muslim, Islamophobia and the search for peace and equality for all lives.
Stand-up comedian 'Preacher Moss' ended the night on a light note with comedy and entertainment.
Participants left the venue leaving uplifted with a renewed commitment to social justice in support of CAIR-LA's civil rights and advocacy work. 




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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