CAIR-Chicago, after planning diligently for the last few months, hosted its Second Annual Event at the Sabre Room in Hickory Hills on Saturday, February 4, 2006. Despite the bad weather, a full capacity crowd of 850 people were in attendance, including the Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Distinguished Professor of Law and President of the International Human Rights Law Institute Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, Chicago Park Commissioner Rouhy Shalabi, Assistant Minority Leader in the General Assembly Senator Steve Rauschenberger, Sheriff of DuPage County John Zaruba, as well as candidates running for local and national offices.
The emcee, comedian and attorney Azhar Usman, engaged the audience with his stand up comedy as this year’s theme, “Pro-Activism: Set Your Own Tracks” ran strong throughout the program.
The lights were dimmed and the crowd became silent as a documentary was projected onto two screens. Created by Director of Communications Ahmed Rehab and volunteer film student Felix Pineiro, the short video emphasized the foundation CAIR-Chicago has set for itself and the Muslim community in the past year alone. Staff, interns, volunteers, clients, and leaders of other organizations spoke of their personal connection with CAIR-Chicago. “Film is a seldom explored medium in the Muslim community. We have a lot of important human stories that are untold except through statistics or bland news briefs,” said Ahmed Rehab. “It’s high time we gave a platform for the intellectual and emotional expressions of our community: our troubles, our fears, our aspirations, our victories. This film was a humble attempt at breaking that ground for this community.”
Professor Sulayman Nyang, Chair of African Studies at Howard University, delivered the keynote address emphasizing the importance of the Chicagoland Muslim community as its fast growth has made it one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. The address further reinforced the message that Civil Rights Coordinator Christina Abraham and Ahmed Rehab emphasized earlier in the program in their organizational report: the importance of institutionalizing Muslim activism.
Executive Director Yaser Tabbara surprised the audience by doing something a bit out of the ordinary: he invited the staff, board members, volunteers and interns on stage. “I wanted to show our community that we are on the right track; we are establishing an institution. CAIR-Chicago isn’t just an organization comprised of a few people; it is an institution made up of activists and individuals who genuinely care about our community and want to help,” explained Tabbara.
Standing behind CAIR-National Executive Director Nihad Awad who delivered the second address, the CAIR-Chicago team received a standing ovation from the audience. “Looking around at the people who were standing on stage with me gave me a sense of pride. I was and am proud of the institution that CAIR-Chicago has become,” commented Outreach Coorindator Dina Rehab, “in the end, it isn’t about who does what. It’s the fact that we do it together, as a team.”
Shaikh Jamal Said of The Mosque Foundation began the fundraising portion of the program, reminded the audience again about the work CAIR-Chicago has done for the Muslim Community and what it can do in the future. As the night came to an end, people dug deep into their pockets, giving whatever they could. “This event was a chance to show people what we’ve done so far,” said Operations Coordinator Sabah Ahmed, “we’ve worked toward setting a proactive track for the Muslim community and tonight we were able to show everyone the hard work our staff and volunteers have put in.”
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