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MPAC Convention

December 24, 2008 by  


By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

One of the challenges facing Muslims and, indeed fair minded people  of all faiths, is to present the true picture of Islam and to combat an  Islamophobia that has shown little signs of abatement. The Muslim Public Affair  Council (MPAC) has accepted this challenge and has done an outstanding job in  working for the civil rights of American Muslims.

MPAC held its eighth annual convention this past  Saturday at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Ca. The well  attended event was titled: “New Era, New Role” and subtitled: “Get informed; get  inspired, get involved.”

“Today we are here to explore the dimensions and  possibilities that come with the “new era” in American leadership we have helped  put in office” wrote Salaam Al Marayati, the Executive Director of MPAC in the  Convention booklet available upon registration.

Dr. Rick Warren, author of “A Purpose Driven Life”  and Pastor of the Saddleback Church in Orange County, Ca., was the keynote  speaker at MPAC’s annual banquet. More than 800 people heard Pastor Warren  emphasize the need for people to get along and to emphasize their common goals  and interests rather than focussing on their differences.

Dr. Warren has been asked by President-elect Barak  Obama to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

His book has sold 25 million copies, setting a record. During the recent  election campaign, his church was a venue for a debate between the President-elect and GOP Presidential candidate Senator John McCain.

During the day attendees listened to such  roundtable discussions as “The Next American President”; “The Aftermath of  Mumbai”, and “How to Run for Public Office”. A parallel Youth Session was also  available.

A varied group of speakers challenged and informed  the attendees. They were diverse and included: Varun Soni, a Hindu and the Dean  of Religious Life at the University of Southern California (USC); Shejea Khan, a  young college student, business woman, and candidate for the Hendricks County  Council in Indiana this year;  revered Islamic spokesperson Dr. Maher  Hathout, and Kiran Khalid, a producer for the NBC television show: “Good Morning  America”.

“I don’t know which session I enjoyed more” said  one young woman holding up a thick sheaf of notes she had taken during the  morning session.

During the timely session on Mumbai, the participants  unanimously declared their disagreement with the declaration that Mumbai  was India’s 9/11. Indian news organizations, new to the business,  sensationalized the days of terror. NBC and CNN partnered with these Indian  outlets and used the live feeds they were sent.

Participant Reza Aslan, author of “No god but God”,  referencing the media coverage, said that media attention yields power to  the perpetrators. Ms Khalid offered the opinion that the opportunity for the  India media to make a name for itself led them to sensationalize the  event.

Dr. Nayyer Ali, Chair of MPAC’s Board of  Directors, suggested that India’s rise to global prominence made the attack  relevant.

A video of the aftermath presented an interview with a  couple who had survived the attack. The Indian wife of an American said  that there were Muslims in their hotel,and that everyone prayed together for  survival. She rejected in no uncertain terms that this was the Muslim terrorism  presented in the Western media. The perpetrators had no religion and “had no  souls”.

Various booths were set up in the Convention  Center lobby. They included booths selling Islamic books and clothing;  CAIR; MPAC; Islamic Relief; AMANA financing, and the Muslim Women’ s  League.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council is a grass roots  public service agency. MPAC works for the integration of American Muslims into  our pluralistic society. MPAC also seeks to train young Muslims for  leadership roles. Perhaps it’s most important area of activity since 9/11 is to  publicize and investigate hate crimes. MPAC created its Hate Crimes Prevention  Department in December of 2001.

MPAC:  www.mpac.org. LA office:  (213) 383-3443; DC office:  (202) 547-7701.

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