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48th Anniversary Celebration of C.A.M.E.O. (Cleveland American Middle East Organization ); Cleveland and Northern Ohio 16th Annual Banquet

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On the weekend of April 20th and 21st we attended two events put on by our friends from the Middle Eastern community of Northeast Ohio where we learned a lot, reinforced wonderful relationships and made some new ones; and consumed good food consistent with our vegetarian diet. 

The first event which took place on Friday evening, April 20th, was the 48th Anniversary Celebration of C.A.M.E.O. (Cleveland American Middle East Organization ) which took place at St. Elias Cultural Center on Memphis Avenue in Brooklyn. We are proud to say that its General Sponsor was "Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC".

As the C.A.M.E.O.'s Statement of Purpose reads in part, the organization "is designed to articulate the political interest of more than 200,000 Northeastern Ohio residents of Middle Eastern Heritage, Arab Americans. C.A.M.E.O. has one central purpose, to appraise candidates running for Public Office, that will offer political support to those who are best prepared to respond to our concerns."

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Accordingly, the celebration was attended by political/community leaders from all sides of the political spectrum including Cuyahoga County Councilperson Dale Miller (District 2), Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Marilyn Cassidy, former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach who is now a candidate for Ohio Attorney General, Parma Heights Mayor Mike Byrne, Cleveland City Councilperson Jasmin Santana (Ward 14), former Mayor and Bentleyville Councilperson Michael Canty who is now a candidate for Ohio State Representative (District 6), and Ohio State Representative Nickie Antonio who is now running for Ohio State Senate (District 23).

As is the custom each year, several people (and/or entities) were honored for being exempliary representatives of Northeast Ohio's Middle Eastern community. This year the honorees were Dr. Mansoor Ahmed, M.D., Director of the "Cleveland Sleep Center and Research"; Mr. Ali Faraj, President and CEO of "Seaway Cash and Carry" and also very much involved with "La Villa Conference and Banquet Center"; and "Kan Zaman", the local Middle Eastern Restaurant where C.A.M.E.O. often meets and is described in the celebration's souvenir program as "a mainstay to the community by hosting many Arabic activities."

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In the course of the evening, we learned that Dr. Ahmed obtained his medical degree in Pakistan (where he was born) but was  was initially turned down for a visa which would have enabled him to pursue his goal of post-graduate training here in the United States so he studied in Canada instead. Fourteen years after his initial visa request was rejected, he was finally able to settle in the United States after being offered a position as assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at CWRU.

The highlight of the evening took place when it was announced that it was the birthday of both Dr. Ahmed and our good friend Mr. Abby Mina, former President of C.A.M.E.O. and the evening's emcee, so they were both presented with birthday cakes with lighted candles. We forget if they blew them out on the first try but it was certainly a delightful occasion.

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The next day was Saturday, April 21st, and that night we attended the CAIR-Cleveland and Northern Ohio 16th Annual Banquet which was held at the Cleveland Marriott East on Harvard Road in Warrensville Heights. CAIR is the abbreviation for "Council on American-Islamic Relations", which is the largest civil rights and advocacy group for the American-Muslims in the U.S. and the theme of this year's gathering was "Living Our Faith, Defending Freedom".

As we have written before, CAIR's mission is "to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding" for all people.

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To be sure, due to the rise of hate crimes against Muslims and such controversial federal actions as the Muslim Ban, we regard CAIR-Ohio as being very important and thus "Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC" took out an ad in the program booklet and set up an information table at the event. When we first arrived we were greeted and offered assistance by Mr. Masroor Malik who was also at the C.A.M.E.O. event the previous evening as were several other people we encountered throughout the night.

While we were tabling we gave away copies of Ms. Margaret W. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" to Ms. Linda New and Ms. Amal Ilain and engaged in conversation regarding religious institutions offering sanctuary to the undocumented which is a subject closely followed by many concerned individuals.  

During the course of the evening, which was emcee'd by Mr. Edward Ahmed Mitchell who is the Executive Director of CAIR-Georgia, we were entertained by the renowned Muslim comedian, Preacher Moss and listened to compelling speeches about the the seriousness of the current political situation and the activities of CAIR on behalf of social justice from such notables as Dr. Ahmad Banna, M.D., the President of CAIR-Cleveland; Ms. Julia A. Shearson, the Executive Director of CAIR-Cleveland; Mr. Hassan Shibly, CAIR-Florida Executive Director; and Ms. Roulla Allouch who is the CAIR-National Board Chair.

One of the most memorable moments of the evening was the keynote address by Imam Suhaib Webb who has lectured extensively around the world. He was introduced by his good friend, Cleveland City Councilperson Basheer Jones, the first Muslim to be elected to Cleveland City Council, and the two men expressed great mutual admiration and respect for each other.

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Imam Webb, a most well-educated person, gave a powerful, dynamic, and moving address concerning the dangers of Islamophobia, the need for Muslims to maintain their religious principles during these troubling times, and the necessity and value of CAIR.

Another moving moment occurred when Ms. Shearson presented Volunteer of the Year awards to Ms. Donna Asnani and Ms. Grace Uhle (age 92!) for their volunteerism at the office of CAIR-Cleveland. As she accepted her award, Ms. Asnani said that through their work with CAIR, she and Ms. Uhle not only got to know their neighbors (i.e. in reference to the worthy programs wherein people of different faiths engage in constructive dialogue) but made a lot of good friends in the process.

We, ourselves, enjoyed sitting next to Mr. Osama Masayekh, a young man who immigrated to the United States from Palestine in 2002 and became a U.S. citizen a few years later. Mr. Masayekh now owns "Hi-Tech Zone" and "Hi-Tech Wireless" two stores in Akron that repair iPhones and other Smart devices. We told him that we had problems with our own iPhone so Mr. Masayekh graciously offered us some good tips on what we can do to make things right.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC