CAIR-MI encourages American Muslims to fight Islamophobia at annual banquet
| Friday, 04.18.2014, 01:38 AM
LIVONIA — The Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan (CAIR-MI) celebrated its 14th annual banquet, “Faith in Freedom,” on Sunday, April 13 at Burton Manor in Livonia.
CAIR has chapters across the United States and is the largest Muslim civil liberties organization in the country. About 800 people attended the event, which highlighted many of the challenges Muslim Americans still face.
British journalist Mehdi Hasan encouraged American Muslims to play a greater role in helping fight the widespread discrimination members in their community still face more than a decade after 9/11.
Hasan noted that American Muslims are better positioned to fight discrimination because of their economic and educational backgrounds.
“Western Muslims should use every opportunity — especially when there is negative media attack — to tell non-Muslim about the real Muslim, the Islam of peace,” Hasan said.
The work of CAIR-MI over the last year was noted as well.
The local chapter has been working on a federal lawsuit that is still pending against the FBI and U.S. Customs Border Patrol over the repeated detention and questioning of Muslims and their religious beliefs and practices by federal agents at the U.S.-Canada border.
Dawud Walid, the executive director of CAIR-MI who has led the group since July 2005, says that despite all the advocacy work that has been done around the country to fight “Islamophobia,” he has witnessed an increase in discrimination cases at his office.
“This could be because discrimination has increased or people just feel more empowered to report hate. It might be a combination of the two,” Walid said. He says despite the increase in cases, much progress has still been made in the area of Muslim civil rights.
Over the last year, Walid and other CAIR staff members have made frequent visits to college campuses in Michigan to educate students about Islam.
“We go and speak to large lecture halls and university classes about the issues that American Muslims face, and clarify misconceptions about them in the process,” he said.
Walid also discussed the issue of politicians spewing hate towards Muslims. “The GOP has a long track record of anti-Muslim rhetoric,” he said.
Last year, CAIR worked with school districts on accommodating the dietary needs of Muslim students. It has also been at the forefront of getting prisons to offer inmates halal meat, and it has reached out to universities pushing them to add prayer rooms for Muslim students.
Moving forward, Walid says the group plans on reaching out to law enforcement agencies and tackling the issue of Muslim women having to remove their headscarves in situations where they don’t feel comfortable doing so.