That is, “Council on American-Islamic Relations Day.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held its 6th annual banquet Saturday at the Tampa Convention Center. Speakers included Georgetown University professor John Esposito and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress.
Following prayers, about 600 people gathered to hear about the theme American Muslims: Defining Ourselves. Ellison said that during the recent presidential campaign, others groups attempted to define Islam and what it means to be Muslim. Many even tried to define Barack Obama as a Muslim, but the strategy didn’t work, Ellison said.
Ellison detailed some of the challenges that Muslims faced during the campaign, including two Muslim women wearing hijabs being forbidden by the Obama campaign from standing behind the candidate at a Detroit rally.
One way that non-Muslims tried to define Muslims during the campaign was through mass distribution of the DVD Obsession, which characterizes some members of the faith as violent extremists. But a University of South Florida religious studies graduate student, Catherine Lafuente, said propaganda like that won’t influence her. She is not a Muslim and her father died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
John Esposito is a professor of religion, international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University. His most recent book is, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Esposito said that a CAIR poll from two years ago pointed out the recent “political mainstreaming” of American Muslims.
Muslim-Americans worry about many of the same things that other Americans do, Esposito said.
Several Tampa Bay elected officials attended Saturday’s banquet, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White and his newly elected colleague Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough School Board member Susan Valdes, and Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti, who received a bridge builder award.
A civil rights award was presented to the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, and WMNF received a community service award. Maritza Betancourt is the city of Tampa’s Human Rights Investigator in the Division of Community Affairs. She read a proclamation from Mayor Pam Iorio.
“By virtue of the authority vested in me as mayor of the city of Tampa, I do hereby proclaim November 15, 2008, as “˜Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Day” in the city of Tampa, Florida.”
Here’s a little refresher from CBN:
CAIR claims to be the nation’s leading Muslim civil rights group. But the group’s critics say it’s focused more on making Islam a dominant force than with fighting bigotry.
In 1998, CAIR founder Omar Ahmad told the San Ramon Valley Herald, “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”
Others point to a 1991 memo by the radical Muslim Brotherhood challenging American Islamic groups.
The memorandum, presented as evidence during a terrorism trial last year, reads that these Muslim groups “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands” until Islam reigns supreme.
Not that any of that matters. Here is a statement from CAIR, via Pamela:
“By December 31, 2010, we will be supporting a $12,000,000 budget… We will have a presence covering all states, with at least 28 state chapters… We will impact local Congressional districts with each chapter influencing at least two legislators…We will focus on Congressmen responsible for policy that directly impacts the American Muslim community. For example, Congressmen on the judiciary, intelligence, and homeland security committees. We will develop national initiatives such as lobby day and placing Muslim interns in Congressional offices. In concert with local chapters we will sustain an ongoing media campaign to change the hearts and minds of Americans…”