On Sunday, May 11th, Margaret W. Wong and Associates tabled at the 12th Annual CAIR Ohio Banquet which was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Independence and attended by approximately 400 people. The theme of this year's banquet was "Faith in Freedom". Dr. Ahmad Banna, President of the Cleveland chapter, said that this theme reflects "CAIR's Dedication to religious freedom and highlights our aspirations for a peaceful and equitable world free of bigotry, bias, and injustice."
CAIR Ohio Staff Attorney Romin Iqbal talked about the projects that CAIR was involved in recently including representing over 40 muslims who were terminated for praying at their workplace as well as representing Ohio Muslims in a lawsuit against the Federal Government for tracking the cell phone data of Muslims in Ohio. What particularly interested us was when Mr. Iqbal spoke about the filing of a lawsuit against the Federal government for harassment and religious questioning of Muslims at the border. In fact, several speakers at this event talked about their own experiences when attempting to re-enter the United States. Additionally CAIR has won several lawsuits in Federal Court to obtain immigration rights for Muslims.
Our dear friend Julia A. Shearson, the very hard-working Executive Director of the Cleveland Chapter said that she had the "best job in the world" and discussed the highpoints of 2013 for the Cleveland Chapter. Ms. Shearson said that she was very glad to have Deputy Police Chief Joellen O'Neill in attendance tonight and talked about how CAIR is working to improve relations between immigrants and the police so that immigrants can turn to the police for assistance without the fear of deportation. Among the things that Ms. Shearson was most proud of were CAIR's part in the first ever Women of Faith Voice Against Violence Conference which explored ways to make Cleveland a safer place to live.
Imam Mahdi Bray, National Director of the American Muslim Alliance, recalled how he was involved in the civil rights struggles of the 1960's as a child because both of his parents were activists and how enriched he was by the experience. He emphasized that civil rights are based on justice and how important it was for people to support organizations like CAIR before he went on to say that even though his eyesight was failing, he could still "smell the dedication and commitment out there" in the audience.
The keynote speaker of the evening was Dr. Denise A. Spelling author of "Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders" who we had listened to at the City Club a few days ago. Dr. Spelling's book examines how Jefferson came to realize that in order for America to realize its potential all religions must be treated equally and even though Dr. Spelling gave very much the same speech that she did at the City Club we were still grateful for the opportunity to hear her detailed presentation again because its content is so historically important. Everyone was happy when Dr. Spelling was awarded the I-CAIR Faith in Freedom Award after her speech.
Two things that we really liked tonight took place while we were tabling before and after the banquet. The first was Hilary Mason King, Executive Director of the Housing Center in Cleveland gave us her card and told us to call her office if any of our clients might be experiencing housing discrimination and we appreciated her concern. The second was when a gentleman took our information and said that he may call us for help when it is time to bring his foreign born wife to the United States.
Another welcome departure from the more serious topics took place when a young man named Hassan Sayed gave a tribute to mothers because it was Mother's Day. All of the mothers in attendance got to stand and were given flowers. Mr. Sayed pointed out that the Quran urges respect for parents, especially for mothers and read us the appropriate passage
But probably Mr. Banna, the Cleveland Chapter President, summed the evening up best when he stated, "to preserve our cherished liberties, we must stand together as Americans to promote inter-religious and intercultural understanding. To build a more just future, we must study the struggles of the past, including the long journey to ensure religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Together, we must work to uphold the rights that all Americans expect and deserve."
Margaret W. Wong and Associates would like to thank Julia Shearson who, despite a rigorous schedule, arranged for us to table at this event in an excellent location and made sure our ad was included in the slide show of CAIR supporters even though we contacted her at the 11th hour. Thanks again, Julia.