On November 18, 2006, the Council on American-Islamic Relations held its annual southern California banquet at the Anaheim Hilton in Anaheim with the theme "American Muslims: Connecting and Sharing." One of the nearly 2,000 guests sent me a report on the event.
Booths present outside of the banquet room included In Focus; Islamic Relief; Muslim American Society; MPAC and CAIR.
J. Steven Tidwell, assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, said he was grateful to CAIR and considers CAIR a family member in the attempt to build bridges.
Judy Chu of California State Assembly said that when she was first elected to the State Assembly in 2001, she wanted to be on the Select Committee on Hate Crimes. She felt this was especially important in the wake of 9/11. She said: "Thank goodness CAIR was there." She worked with CAIR to prosecute hate crimes. She said that these are difficult times in America, but with CAIR's help we will be okay.
A brief video, "The Faces of CAIR," told about the staff in CAIR's Anaheim office.
Fouad Khatib announced the opening of a fourth CAIR office in California in San Diego. (The others are in Los Angeles/Orange County, San Francisco and Sacramento.) After 9/11, CAIR did not weaken, he went on, but stood strong against terrorism. He then gave examples – such as being co-plaintiff with the ACLU in a law suit against the government for warrantless wiretapping – showing how CAIR forwarded civil rights issues. Khatib also raised the term Islamo-fascist, insisting CAIR would never accept such language. He concluded by promoting the idea of American Muslims serving as a bridge between Muslim countries and the United States.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR in Los Angeles since 1997, thanked Allah and CAIR's members and supporters. He noted that anti-Muslim acts and words have skyrocketed since 9/11. CAIR fights these as a member of the Muslim Homeland Security Congress and working with the Los Angeles sheriff's office. CAIR works with the media, especially small town media. It provides one-stop shopping for the media. References to Ramadan are in the newspapers thanks to CAIR. CAIR representatives are available 24/7.
Another video followed, showing how CAIR works on civil rights complaints.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj thanked Allah for CAIR being here. He said that we have just seen a major shift in the United States with the victory of the Democratic Party. He spoke of Jackie Robinson and how Robinson was a trail blazer in sports. He then referred to Keith Ellison as a trail blazer for Muslims. He said that CAIR is a bridge. He referenced Paul Sperry's Infiltration and claimed to be proud of the unfavorable references to CAIR and to himself in the book. He read a verse from the Koran and referenced Keith Ellison again. He aid that African Americans cannot hide their skin color, but Muslims can hide their faith. Thanks to CAIR they no longer have to.
Wahhaj then began fundraising. He said he had $1,000 in his pocket and referred to it as a share in CAIR. He said he wanted to sell 500 shares to raise a total of $500,000. He asked for a donation of $50,000. No one spoke up. The largest donation was $35,000. There was a donation of $25,000, one of $12,000 and three of $10,000. The total take was over $400,000.
(November 23, 2006)