Monday, July 23, 2007

More coverage on extremely successful CAIR-MI banquet

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2007, pages 46-47

Muslim-American Activism

CAIR-MI Annual Fund-raising Banquet a Remarkable Success

MORE THAN 1,200 people—Muslims and non-Muslims alike—flocked to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn, MI for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Michigan’s annual fund-raising banquet, dubbed “One Nation Under God.” This year’s event featured critically acclaimed British author and journalist Robert Fisk as a keynote speaker, and Bill Gallagher, an Emmy Award-winning news reporter with Fox 2 Detroit News.

CAIR is the premier civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States working to protect the rights and civil liberties of Muslims in America. Based in Washington, DC, where Dr. Nihad Awad is its national director, CAIR now has 32 chapters across the United States.

The CAIR Michigan chapter, under the direction of Dawud Walid, who has served as executive director since July 2005, was established by several prominent Muslim community members nearly eight years ago. Walid described the past year’s accomplishments and CAIR’s unremitting efforts to combat bias, injustice and discrimination against Muslims in Michigan and surrounding areas. Dr. Jukaku Tayeb, the CAIR-MI president, encouraged attendees to continue their moral and financial support of the organization.

Fisk, a resident of Beirut, Lebanon for nearly 30 years and the Middle East correspondent for the UK’s The Independent, delivered a powerful and sometimes humorous address on the Middle East crisis, the injustices committed daily, and media bias. After discussing Iraq, Iran, and the divisions between Muslims, he turned to the U.S. and British administrations, Western interference and conspiracies in the Middle East.

“I tried to calculate for an article just how many Western soldiers were in the Islamic world today compared to the 12th century Crusades,” said Fisk. “There are 22 times more Western soldiers in the Islamic world today than Crusaders had in 1187,” he noted.

“I have said this equation before in Detroit: ‘the Americans must leave Iraq and the Americans will leave Iraq, and the Americans can’t leave Iraq.’ That is the equation that turns sand into blood,” Fisk warned.

As he recounted numerous astounding reports by such journalists as Thomas Friedman, Daniel Pipes and David Brooks, the crowd tried to stifle their laughter and gasps.

Fisk lampooned USA Today writer Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army officer, who wrote about why he supported the invasion: “I supported the removal of Saddam Hussain. I believed that Arabs deserved a chance to build a rule-of-law democracy in the Middle East. Based upon firsthand experience, I was convinced that the Middle East was so politically, socially, morally and intellectually stagnant that we had to risk intervention—or face generations of terrorism and tumult. I still believe that our removal of Hussain was a noble act.

“I only wish the administration had done it competently.”

“You see?” Fisk asked. “You see the white man’s burden that we are going to rescue all these guys…forget about regime change, weapons of mass destruction, or al-Qaeda.”

Fisk continued skewering Peters by quoting the writer, who first declared ”Only a military coup—which might come in the next few years—could hold the artificial country together.” Peters went on to say, “Yet, for all our errors, we did give the Iraqis a unique chance to build a rule-of-law democracy. They preferred to indulge in old hatreds, confessional violence, ethnic bigotry and a culture of corruption. It appears that the cynics were right: Arab societies can’t support democracy as we know it. And people get the government they deserve.”

Shaking his head, Fisk said, “Yes, Yes...we are witnessing the collapse of a civilization, but it’s OK folks…we can frighten some more people with our failures in Iraq. Do you see what is happening?”

In his compelling conclusion, to thundering applause and a standing ovation, Fisk stated: “Ladies and gentlemen, you know, I was struck when I listened to Barack Obama (D-IL) when he told his supporters that America’s primary concern in the Middle East is the security of Israel. He was wrong!” exclaimed Fisk. “America’s primary concern in the Middle East must be the security of all who live there, including the Israelis; Muslims, and Christians, as well as Jews, Arabs as well as Israelis.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Fisk concluded, “democracy cannot be built on the sand of the desert. It can be built only if it is built upon justice; justice for all people of the Middle East.”

To learn more about CAIR Michigan and how to support its efforts, visit or call 1-248-559-2247.

—Suehaila M. Amen

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