(ANAHEIM, CA, 4/29/08) – On Saturday, April 26, the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), in cooperation with the Manzanar Committee, the Japanese American Citizens League and Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, led a group of some 100 Southern California Muslims on a daylong pilgrimage to a former internment camp known as the “Manzanar War Relocation Center.”
Participants listened to former internees and their children share stories of internment at Manzanar during World War II, when the U.S. government ordered about 120,000 Japanese-Americans to be held at 10 military-style camps, without ever allowing them any due process of law. Not a single internee was ever charged or convicted.
One of the participants, Kathy Soubra, visited Manzanar with her husband and two children. “As a Japanese-American, my family rarely talked about the internment experience,” she said. “The pilgrimage to Manzanar, therefore, was particularly educational for me and my family. As a Muslim who is witnessing growing anti-Muslim sentiment now, this trip has further inspired me to work on breaking down walls of hate and division in our society. It is also very important that the younger generation of today be educated on this dark era so history will never repeat itself.”
As calls for special scrutiny and profiling of Muslims are increasing, CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush stressed the need for members of the Muslim community to visit Manzanar and other Japanese-American internment camps to learn about our country’s history.
“An entire community was unjustly detained during World War II, merely because of their Japanese ancestry,” said Ayloush. “Americans must remember what can happen during a time of war and rampant propaganda. We should let history be our guide and not allow our government to repeat the same injustices, this time against American Muslims and Arabs, as we continue with the ‘War on Terror.’ ”
On Saturday, visitors, including Muslim community leaders and students, also participated in interfaith ceremonies held at the Manzanar monument. Imam Ali Siddiqi of Corona offered the Muslim prayer. Later in the evening, people visited the Manzanar Interpretive Center, which featured exhibits and a screening of an award-winning documentary entitled “Remembering Manzanar.” Additionally, the Manzanar at Dusk program featured group discussion with former internees, who encouraged participants to stand up for justice and civil liberties.
The theme of this year’s pilgrimage was “Continuing the Legacy.” Some 1,300 to 1,600 people from all parts of California and beyond attended the Pilgrimage.
CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. 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 Coordinator Munira Syeda, (714) 776-1847 or (714) 851-4851; E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org