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MPAC’s LA Fundraiser

August 31, 2006 by  


By Susan Schwartz

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held a banquet/fundraiser at the Islamic Center of Southern California this past Saturday evening. The conference room of this oldest Islamic center in Southern California was packed to capacity.

MPAC describes its work as “working for the civil rights of American Muslims, for the integration of Islam into the American body politic, and for a positive and productive relationship between Muslims and their government.”

Following an excellent dinner, MPAC representatives spoke of the essential work of their organization, work which has increased exponentially during the past few months. Their speeches were supplemented by video presentations.

Haris Tarin, the Community Development Director for MPAC took to the podium and welcomed the audience. He then introduced Dr. Saleh Kholaki who read and translated a verse from the Holy Qur’an. The attendees were told that they must have two essential Qur’anic traits: hope and action, and were told that MPAC embodies these two traits.

Citing three recent crises: the alleged London liquid-bomb plot, Israel’s war against Lebanon, and foolish references to “Islamofascists,” the speakers demonstrated the increased burden on the shoulders of MPAC.

“What we do in the United States and what we do abroad are interconnected”.

MPAC is now in demand for commentary in the media. Representatives form MPAC have made more than 30 appearances on Fox News, CNN, CSPAN, BBC, MSNBC, NPR and all the Los Angeles news channels.

The Los Angeles Times invited MPAC to a debate at the Simon Wiesenthal center. For the first time in 60 years, an issue which had hitherto been portrayed only from the Israeli side could be seen from both sides. The one-sided policy of the United States vis-à-vis Israel is being seriously and systematically called into question, thanks in no small part to MPAC.

Salaam al Marayati and Edina Lekovic took turns with their presentation. Salaam has been chosen to receive the ACLU-LA Religious Freedom Award. Edina, just returned from a journalists’ conference, told the audience that MPAC has had to cultivate journalists, a job which takes many hours. Now, she explained, this process is beginning to pay off.

“Wafa Sultan and Irjad Mahgi will not define Islam. Steve {Emerson} and Daniel {Pipes} will not define Islam. Nor will we be silent while the President drags Islam through the mud.”

Salaam explained how MPAC has made inroads by meeting with prominent officials. He cited MPAC meetings with LA Mayor Antonio Villagarosa and with Governor Schwartzenegger, and said that such meetings have paid off. Salaam also spoke of the partnership that MPAC has formed with the FBI and with local law enforcement. MPAC has also met with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, California) and Representative Jane Harmon (D, California), among other politicians. MPAC has sent interfaith delegations to meet with government officials and held a well-attended interfaith vigil at the very same LA Islamic center which was the venue for this fundraiser.

As he explained, MPAC is sought out by the media and meets with key Washington personnel. MPAC has held training session for Muslim communities in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Washington, DC.

Another goal of MPAC, he explained, is to redress the inequities in Hollywood with its one-sided support for Israel. Changing this will require a substantial investment, he explained, and explained also that MPAC also needs funds for an internship program.

The personnel at MPAC put their lives and careers on the line for Islam, he said. We are partners, and by giving generously we fulfill our part of the relationship.

Dr. Maher Hathout, the Senior Political Advisor to MPAC, took to the podium to raise funds. Dr. Hathout has been awarded the John Anson Ford Public Service Award by the Los Angeles Human Rights Commission. The retired reverend George Regas, from All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, and Rabbi Leonard Beerman are the interfaith team that has sought to bring balance, justice and conscience to American foreign policy. “We are one of the few hopes for the United States. We Muslims are saviors,” explained Hathout.

Dr. Hassan Zeenni of the MPAC Foundation took the podium next. His goal for the evening was to raise $50,000. In a short time the goal was met and surpassed. The evening ended with prayers.

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