500 people attend sold-out event in Philadelphia
(PHILADELPHIA, PA, 4/8/07) – The Pennsylvania chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-PA) today thanked that state’s governor for taking part in its first annual banquet Saturday night in Philadelphia.
CAIR-PA thanked Rep. Sestak for refusing to back out of speaking at the dinner after facing rhetorical attacks from Islamophobic Internet bloggers who objected to his decision to address hundreds of local Muslims.
SEE: Sensitive Political Test for Sestak (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Sestak told dinner attendees: “CAIR does such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs — from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding — at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim.”
“We need to claim our values, not betray them, by ensuring there is not a psychology that pulls out of the rich fabric of our American community those who look like ‘one of them.’ We are better than that,” said Sestak.
SEE: Sestak Cheered During CAIR Speech (Delaware County Times)
Other speakers at the dinner included Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center.
During the banquet, CAIR’s National Board Chairman Parvez Ahmed praised Sestak for having the moral fiber to speak to his Muslim constituents despite being “demonized and vilified by the right-wing media and pro-Israel extremists.”
SEE: Pro-Israel Groups Target American Muslims (InFocus)
Ahmed also said: “Islam does not only mean peace, Islam emphasizes peaceful coexistence as a supreme goal. Thus, Islamic ethos unequivocally condemns terrorism of any sort. . .Each gruesome act that shocked Americans, from the murder of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, to the bombing of a Jewish Seder party in Israel, to the beheading of Nick Berg in Iraq, to the massacre in Beslan to the subway bombings in London, has equally shocked Muslims and brought with it swift and unequivocal condemnations. American Muslim organizations also rallied behind a fatwa (Islamic juristic opinion) against terrorism…
“It is time apologists for Israeli apartheid issue similar condemnation statements against the usurping of Palestinian land, the demolition of their homes, and the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Until this happens they stand on no moral ground to lecture us. . . The world needs to heal. I appeal to this gathering of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and people of all faiths to rise and be counted as among those who are blessed – for they are the peacemakers.”
“We thank Governor Rendell and Representative Sestak for having the courage to stand up to bigotry and extremism and to treat their Muslim constituents as equal citizens,” said CAIR-PA Chairman Iftekhar Hussain.
Some 250 people also turned out last night for a similar CAIR banquet in Connecticut. CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad was one of the keynote speakers at that event.
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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