By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is one of the most effective civil rights organizations in the United States and one of the most effective tools in countering Islamophobia with the truth about Islam.
More than two thousand people filled the dining salon of the Anaheim Hilton Hotel this past Saturday evening to celebrate CAIRâ€™s 11th annual banquet/fundraiser. The response was unprecedented even for CAIR which has always drawn large attendance for its events. The tickets were sold out two weeks before the gala and 200 additional seats had to be added. Titled â€œLet the Conversation Begin,â€ the event raised $450,000 for CAIRâ€™s civil rights and advocacy work – now more important than ever.
Congressman Keith Ellison (D, Minnesota) was the keynote speaker.
Congressman Ellison is the first Muslim to have been elected to Congress. When he approached the podium, he received a standing ovation.
Congressman Ellison urged his audience to engage the larger society.
Muslims should be active in the political arena and in the media. He reminded his audience that Muslims are taxpayers and as such have a vested interest in how government spends its money – including funding the present war and the PATRIOT ATC. He frequently quoted from the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) on the subject of proactive work.
â€œI am asking you to call America back to its noblest ideals.â€
National Executive Director, Nihad Awad, one of the founders of CAIR, also addressed the audience as did Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles area CAIR chapter. Mr. Ayloush addressed the â€œmapping of Muslimsâ€ recently suggested by the LAPD.
â€œOur struggle is not for the acceptance of Muslims in America, but to protect Americaâ€™s soul and great values from being manipulated and compromised by those who wish to spread fear, phobia and paranoiaâ€ said Mr. Ayloush.
The banquet was truly an interfaith event and included representatives from law enforcement, members of Congress and local government and Islamic centers throughout Southern California.
Michael Hamilton Morgan, former diplomat and the author of â€œLost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers and Artistsâ€ also addressed the event.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj of Masjid Al-Taqwa in New York was the fundraiser for the evening.
A dramatic presentation featuring readings from Howard Zinnâ€™s â€œVoices of a Peopleâ€™s History of the United Statesâ€ held the audience captive. The passages included the works of Cesar Chavez, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Robeson, Sylvia Woods and Yuri Kochiyama.
Presenters included actor Carl Weathers, Eisha Mason of Radio Station KPFK, actor and activist Ruben Guevara, and Nobuko Miyamoto who, as a baby, was interned during World War II.
Those who wish to contribute to the Greater Los Angeles Area CAIR or simply wanting more information on the work of CAIR will find access at: _http://ca.cair.com_ (http://ca.cair.com) ; CAIR at 2180 W. Crescent Avenue, Suite F, Anaheim, Ca. 92801; telephone: (714)-776-1847 or email at email@example.com_ (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org).