(ANAHEIM, CA, 11/4/10) — More than 2,000 people turned out Saturday for the 14th annual banquet of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA). Another 700 watched the live web stream, made available for the first time, of the banquet program.
The event helped raise more than $450,000 to support CAIR-LA’s civil rights and advocacy efforts.
This year’s banquet was moderated by CAIR-LA Deputy Executive Director Ameena Qazi and Executive Committee Member Baraa Kahf. Opening remarks at the banquet were delivered by U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), who encouraged Muslims to get civically engaged.
Dr. John Esposito, Professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, and Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Imam of At-Taqwa Mosque in New York, gave powerful keynote addresses on facing Islamophobic attacks with confidence and assertiveness and supporting civil rights advocacy work.
“When we began to turn the corner with regard to the rights of African-Americans is when we began to use the word racism consistently to identify and condemn – as we do anti-Semitism and as we must do with regard to Islamophobia,” said Dr. Esposito. He added, “We want to see an Administration that realizes that Islamophobia is now a word that has to be part of our lexicon; if you don’t name it, it doesn’t exist.”
Video: Dr. Esposito Addresses CAIR-LA Banquet Attendees
This year has been particularly challenging for the American Muslim community, in terms of combating Islamophobia and upholding civil liberties as well as holding government agencies such as the FBI accountable for abusive and manipulative tactics against American Muslims. Additionally this year, the Muslim community was grateful for the tremendous support offered by members of the interfaith communities.
Fourteen awards were given at Saturday’s banquet to those individuals and organizations which stood up for American Muslims’ First Amendment rights, and individuals who refused to give up their basic civil liberties in face of adversity.
The 2010 awards were given in interfaith, leadership, community building and media categories.
A highlight of the evening was CAIR-LA’s engagement with Muslim youth, through the prism of Muslim Youth Leadership Program alumni.
Video: MYLP Segment at CAIR-LA Banquet
CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush spoke about continuing with the legacy blazed by American Muslims of earlier generations.
“A legacy is only as good as it is carried. This means we learn about it, we respect it, we value it, we appreciate it, we build on it – but we don’t remain stagnant. If all we do is hand down to our children what our parents and grandparents struggled to achieve, then we’ve failed the next generation and ourselves,” he said.
Video: CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush’s speech
Additionally, CAIR-LA President Fawad M.S. Yacoob said, “We are very grateful to our dedicated staff and volunteers as well as for the overwhelming support of our community members, without whom our successes would not be possible.”
CAIR-LA further thanks the Scholars Council of California, which organized the Tarbiya Conference on Saturday, for facilitating the appearance of speaker Imam Zaid Shaker at the CAIR-LA banquet and for contributing a portion of conference proceeds to support CAIR’s 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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CONTACT: CAIR-LA Communications Manager Munira Syeda, 714-776-1847, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org