14th Annual Banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
On Sunday, May 8th, we spent a large part of the afternoon and evening at the 14th Annual Banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Cleveland and Northern Ohio Chapter that was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Independence. We both tabled for Margaret W. Wong and Associates and listened to some excellent speeches.
The designated theme for the banquet was, "Strengthening Our Voices, Advancing Together" which was very appropriate for the occasion due to the very prevalent ambience that a lot of hard work needed to be done to challenge the very troubling if not inflammatory statements against Muslims that have played a major role in the 2016 U.S. Presidential primaries and just might continue up to the time of the general election in November.
Among the speakers that we listened to were:
****Dr. Ahmad Banna, the President of CAIR who said that this election year had certainly taken its toll on Muslims and the community in general. Nevertheless, we must not let hatred divide us but we must come together to be strong. He went on to say that CAIR stands firmly with the U.S. Constitution in terms of support of freedom of speech and freedom of religion for everyone. Therefore, we must "progress instead of regress."
****Mr. Romin Iqbal, Esq. from the CAIR-Ohio Legal Dept. said that it was realized that more hate crimes were committed than reported and that this must end; we have a moral obligation to report such crimes so that they so that people outside of the Muslim community will know what is going on. He also talked about the controversial anti-Sharia law that has been introduced in the Ohio state legislature
****Ms. Julia Shearson, Executive Director of CAIR who talked about how much the organization has grown in the past 13 years and how proud she was to be able to work for such an organization as CAIR that promotes justice for everyone. Accordingly, she believed that it was now time for Muslim to stand up and claim their rights just as such groups as African-Americans, Asians and Jews had to do in the past. She said that it was not CAIR's place to tell people how to vote but it certainly would serve as a force "to mobilize the community to register to vote." Ms. Shearson then showed slides that highlighted the issues that CAIR took up in 2016 and many of the outcomes were positive or positive/pending. Thus, Ms. Shearson's part of the program ended on an urgent but upbeat note.
****Mr. Murtaza Hussain, Journalist and Commentator for "The Intercept" who is one of the few Muslim journalists working in the United States. He believed that the current challenge of Muslims was to "move a mountain of animosity" that operate sagainst them. As far as the candidates in the U.S. Presidential primaries, he contended that they "are stoking the fire" and that some of the things that have been said are "really frightening" and "truly unfair." Therefore, we must all fight not just for ourselves but for the next generations. He called upon all of us to make use of our talents as writers and take advantage of social media to get the word out as much as possible. Moreover, it was dangerous to be complacent about all this because this would cause the bigotry and prejudice to continue. Otherwise, we run the risk of allowing Islam to become as dirty of a label as communism was during the cold war. As for inspiration, Mr. Hussain firmly believed that Muslims were strong enough "to walk in the path of other immigrant groups" such as the Irish, African-Americans, and Asians who had to fight to gain respect. Mr. Hussain said that even though the American system may be flawed there still exists the opportunities for accountability.
In addition to the speeches, an I-CAIR award was presented to Ms. LaTonya Nicole Goldsby. The program notes read that Ms. Goldsby "has taken on the role as an activist and community organizer deeply rooted in seeking changes in the way that local police departments treat and interact with the community and unarmed civilians."
Another award was presented to our good friend, Mr. Joe Cimperman. As the program notes stated, one of the many things that former Cleveland City Councilman Cimperman has to be proud of is his advocacy of "making Cleveland a welcoming city for newcomers. In 2016, he introduced emergency resolution 1459-15 in City Council to send a signal that Cleveland would be a welcoming city to those who are coming as refugees from all over the world including the Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing war and strife. The resolution specifically opposed Ohio House Resolution HCR 31 against allowing Syrian refugees in Ohio." During his acceptance speech, Mr. Cimperman praised his fellow councilpeople for joining him in unanimously passing the resolution and Mayor Frank Jackson for signing it.
Before the program, we tabled and had several good conversations including those with two retirees who wanted volunteer their now-available time to assisting immigrants and refugees in Cleveland. We gave our contact information to a young man who had a friend from the Middle East who might need our help should he/she decide to immigrant to the United States.
And, we meet a young woman who was thinking of choosing immigration law as a career path. We gave her our contact information and told her to give us a call if she wanted to explore her options with someone from our office. She said that it was certainly was a curious thing that we were there tabling because earlier in the day she had been thinking of contacting Margaret W. Wong and Associates about this very matter.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.