By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Council of Islamic Relations (CAIR) Oklahoma Chapter will host its 11th Awards Banquet on Saturday, April 1, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Embassy Suites, 741 N Phillips Avenue, in downtown Oklahoma City. Registration for the event will begin at 5 p.m. with the dinner and program starting at 6 p.m.
The banquet, themed “Advancing Justice, Challenging Hate,” will be hosted by Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, the founder and executive director of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma.
Established in 2006, CAIR-OK is a chapter of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.
The dinner will feature writer, international human rights lawyer, and global media commentator Arsalan Iftikhar as keynote speaker.
Iftikhar is author of the book SCAPEGOATS: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies & Threatens Our Freedoms, which President Jimmy Carter called “an important book that shows Islamophobia must be addressed urgently.” He also serves a senior editor for The Islamic Monthly and his interviews regularly appear on global media outlets including National Public Radio, Al-Jazeera English, CNN, Washington Post, and NBC News “Meet The Press.”
Additional presenters include motivational speaker Hassan Shibl, executive director of CAIR-Florida and comedian Amer Zahr.
Shibl has appeared numerous times in both local and national media outlets including CNN, NPR, Voice of America, the New York Times, the Toronto Star and the Buffalo News for his work protecting civil liberties and promoting understanding of the Muslim faith. He runs a successful academic publishing company focusing on the traditional Islamic sciences, and is the founder of the Center for American Muslim Understanding.
Zahr is an Arab-American speaker, writer, academic, and adjunct Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He draws on his experiences growing up as a child of Palestinian immigrant parents, performing and lecturing on topics such as politics, society, Islam, and growing up Arab. In 2016, Zahr also served as a surrogate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
CAIR-OK’s event will honor two individuals who have made outstanding contributions to their community.
The 2017 Oklahoma Muslim of the Year Award, CAIR-OK’s newest honor, will be given to DeBorah Boneta, executive director of the Surayaa Anne Foundation OKC and founder of “The Bridge,” a prison ministry for federally-incarcerated individuals. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner will be announced during the event.
“This awards banquet is a time for us to come together as a community and honor the work of our past, while at the same time looking forward to the future of our organization,” said CAIR-OK Executive Director Adam Soltani. “In a time of unprecedented Islamophobia, it is increasingly important for the Muslim community to have pride in its accomplishments and to share in celebrations together.”
Community Outreach Fellow Shehla Fazili said, “Given the current political climate, the community has responded with great enthusiasm and support. We are expecting a large crowd, and we have worked hard to create an exceptional program for the evening.”
CAIR-OK’s 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.
General admission tickets cost $50 each and students are $30. Sponsorships begin at $500 for a table for eight. Childcare for ages 2 – 12 is available for $15 per child.
Banquet reservations are available online at www.cairoklahoma.com, or by contacting Anna Facci, CAIR Oklahoma Events Coordinator, at 405-415-6851 Ext. 3.