When her boss sent Yesi King home from her waitressing job for wearing a religion-related scarf, she called the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Anaheim for help.
"I converted to Islam about 2-1/2 years ago," King, 21, said recently. "I
have grown in my faith and a few months ago decided I wanted to wear the
Told by her supervisor to uncover her head or go home, she left the
restaurant in tears. CAIR stepped in with a letter of protest to the
restaurant chain - including a discussion of the law - and informational
pamphlets. King was reinstated with back pay.
"It was humiliating being sent home that day, but CAIR really helped me
out," King said. "It's awesome."
Based in Washington, D.C., the organization focuses its work on
civil-rights issues, from promoting communitywide tolerance to handling
everyday problems like King's.
In Orange County, seven paid staff members serve a community of about
600,000 Muslims - native-born and immigrants from dozens of nations.
In recent months, CAIR has made successful pleas for the freedom of a young
Southern California Muslim held in Egypt, helped a distraught local Muslim
mother publicize her search for her missing son and completed a "candidate
report card" on Muslim issues.
It also spent uncountable hours publicly condemning terrorism and trying to
separate it from Islam…
Now, CAIR works to rebuild bridges between Muslims and their neighbors and
issues a constant stream of press releases condemning terrorism…
CAIR has also energized the wider Islamic community - something not
possible at mosques, the traditional centers of Muslim life, which tend to
attract only the devout.
The council bankrolls its projects primarily through community donations
and its annual banquets, including the 10th anniversary celebration held
The event was evidence of CAIR's growing clout. A decade ago, the dinner
drew 400 attendees, allMuslim. This time, 2,100 people - including
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, members of Congress, county and
local office holders, and members of the interfaith community - packed the
Audience members donated $450,000 toward the local chapter's approximately
$750,000 projected budget for next year.
Support for CAIR's work remains critical to the most vulnerable in the
community, keynote speaker David Cole of Georgetown University Law Center
told the crowd.
"In the wake of 9/11, CAIR is in the forefront of seeking to reclaim the
idea of humanity for all of us," said Cole, an expert on constitutional
law, criminal procedures, civil liberties, and national security and
Its efforts have brought the group new friendships and understanding,
"I think this was a test for our country. Some people were betting that
America would lynch Muslims or put us in internment camps. I think as a
nation we passed the test."
Since the 9/11 attacks, the O.C. chapter of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations - a Muslim civil-rights group - has worked to increase
understanding of Islam and retrieve its good name from the actions of
extremists. Among its works:
•Initiated a project that has put an 18-book-and-video package on Islam in
7,000 public libraries.
•Fielded a billboard campaign on the themes of tolerance, unity and
kindness from "your Muslim neighbor."
•Aired public-service announcements about Islam on radio and TV.
•Set up a speakers bureau to reach churches, synagogues, schools
and service, political and senior-citizen clubs.
•Created the "Not in the Name of Islam" online anti-terrorism petition at
www.cair-net.org, which says, in part: "No injustice done to Muslims can
ever justify the massacre of innocent people, and no act of terror will
ever serve the cause of Islam. We repudiate and disassociate ourselves from
any Muslim group or individual who commits such brutal and un-Islamic acts.
- Ann Pepper, The Orange County Register