On March 3, 2012 CAIR-Chicago held it’s 8th Annual Banquet, themed “A Future Without Bigotry.” Among the over 1200 attendees were Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, MPAC spokeswoman Edina Lekovich, author Salahuddin Khan, Sheikh Kifah Mustapha, and Professor John Esposito. In addition to having such diverse distinguished guests, over 100 interns and volunteers spent the day helping plan the evening; contributing greatly to the tremendous success of the event.
One of the many volunteers, Biahn Abu-Elreish said she was, “excited for such diverse people coming together to support a great event,” and that the evening was “very educational.” Sponsors from the Chicagoland community also joined CAIR-Chicago in support the annual event. The sponsors included Islamic Relief USA, Universal School, ICIRR, CIOGC, Zaytuna, Pakistan Times, AAAN, the Zakat Foundation, MECCA, Muslim Journal, Turkish Airlines, the law offices of Mazen Asbahi and Azam Nizamuddin, and many more.
Mohammad Sankari, who was sitting at the American Arab Action Network (AAAN) table was asked what brings AAAN to do work so frequently with CAIR-Chicago, and Sankari said, “AAAN and CAIR-Chicago want to see a vibrant and secure community. CAIR-Chicago also does important work for its constituents.” Sakari’s comments reflect the mission and values of CAIR-Chicago’s many supporters.
Throughout the event, CAIR-Chicago’s web presence was also very strong as the organization’s Twitter followers had lively conversations before, during, and after the event. CAIR-Chicago’s designated Tweeters also provided up to the minute reporting on comments made by the speakers and all of the night’s happenings.
CAIR-Chicago also debuted two new documentaries that evening. One of the films documented the Islamophobia that is so widespread in the news media, and how CAIR-Chicago has responded to the bigoted remarks made by public officials, news pundits, and other public figures. While the audience were taken back by the hateful language that was used to describe Muslims and the Islamic faith, the night’s speakers including Chicago Police Superintendent McCarthy and Professor Esposito, remarked that they were also appalled by the bigotry that is perpetuated against Islam in the U.S., and applauded CAIR-Chicago’s efforts in fighting this anti-Muslim sentiment.
During the welcome statement, CAIR-Chicago’s Deputy Director Sufyan Sohel spoke about the history of CAIR-Chicago, “We must pride ourselves that we are constanty defending civil rights of Muslim Americans.” Following Sohel’s welcoming remarks, Executive Director Ahmed Rehab spoke about “misinformation and miseducation,” about Islam, which according to Rehab are tactics used through television and mass media as ways to dehumanize Muslims. Rehab concluded that in our fight for a future without bigotry, we must “learn from history”, citing examples of groups who have been discriminated against in the U.S. and how these groups have worked to overcome these struggles.
Perhaps the most talked-about speaker at the “A Future Without Bigotry” banquet was Superintendant Garry McCarthy, who was invited a week prior by Rehab. During McCarthy’s speech, he said he was for “transparency and communication” and that he was moved by the “very powerful video that [he] just watched,” (referring to the short documentary about Islamophobes and CAIR-Chicago’s responses). McCarthy vowed, “The Chicago Police Department does not conduct blanket surveillance of any community,” met with applause from the crowd.
Later in the program, Rehab thanked McCarthy for his “sincere, heartfelt speech.”
For photos from the event, please visit: CAIR-Chicago 2012 Annual Banquet Flickr Slideshow.