Thank You!

Nearly 1,000 Attend MPAC Convention

December 18, 2013


How does one celebrate “25 Years on the Road Less Traveled,” the theme of MPAC’s annual convention this year? To our great delight, we celebrated on Saturday with capacity-filled convention halls; nationally-renowned, A-list speakers; and a banquet overflowing with nearly 1,000 supporters.
 
SEE: MPAC Convention Photo Album (Flickr)
ALSO SEE: Audience Convention Photo Album (Facebook)
 
Our 13th annual convention celebrated our journey on the “road less traveled,” the sublime path where Islamic values merge with society’s interests, where good works find inspiring crossroads and where politics yield to principles. This year’s convention brought together leaders, activists, intellectuals, artists and faith leaders to explore timely topics such as the arts and activism, political Islam and community innovators. Following three powerful sessions on arts, innovation and politics, the banquet program celebrated MPAC’s 25 years of serving the greater good, and included a moving tribute to Dr. Maher Hathout, MPAC’s Senior Adviser and co-founder. 

If you can't see the video above, click here to watch it on YouTube.
 



Here are a few of highlights from the Convention.


“Let's Be Honest: The Arts, Identity & Activism”

“Art is a message from the soul, wrapped in an envelope of beauty.”
~ Dr. Hathout.


Art conveys an understanding about Islam and Muslims in ways that position papers and lectures never will. Using the arts to express a message is not a revolutionary idea; Muslims, throughout the centuries, have contributed significantly to various forms such as architecture, literature and music.  

Three performers at this year’s convention, Omar Offendum, Aja Black and Big Samir of the hip-hop duo The ReMINDers, spoke about their journey in the arts, and how they have been able to influence others' perceptions about Islam and spirituality through their music. Moderated by Ahmed Younis, the session featured performances and a fascinating conversation where they were joined by Shaikh Yassir Fazaga of the Orange County Islamic Foundation.

ALSO SEE: Full video of the Session I (YouTube.com)

“Fast Forward: The Innovators Shaping Our Future”

The Fast Forward session brought together some of our community’s most promising social innovators, from Nadeem Mazen who successfully ran for public office to Khadija Abdullah who has made it a lifelong quest to educate Muslims about HIV and AIDS to Nadia Roumani who is working to reinvent Muslim philanthropy to Samia Al-Moslimany who is part of the campaign for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia to Def Jam Poet Amir Sulaiman who talked about love as a driving force in art and self-expression. MPAC highlighted American Muslims who are taking the road less traveled, sparking discussion and finding innovative solutions for our community and the nation at large.

ALSO SEE: Full video of the Session II (YouTube.com)

 
“Does Political Islam Have a Future?” 

This important session reviewed global events shaping Muslim societies around the world, with a closer examination of how women and minorities are fairing.  Renowned Georgetown University Professor Dr. John Esposito warned that authoritarianism will rise as a result of these movements failing in different countries. The other panelists, Dr. Hamid Mavani and Haroon Moghul, spoke on movements from the Middle East to Iran, and they highlighted the challenges facing those governments and Islamic movements.

ALSO SEE: Full video of the Session III (YouTube.com)

 
Annual Banquet

The day’s thoughtful discussions and interactions gave way to the evening’s stellar banquet and an emotional tribute to Dr. Hathout.
 
Featuring highlights from MPAC’s 25years of service, in the banquet featured a poignant video narrated by actor and activist Kamal Marayati. From MPAC’s early days with a modest $30,000 budget to today’s major inroads in politics, media, law enforcement and interfaith work, the video highlighted MPAC’s history and featured interviews with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), LAPD Counter-Terrorism Deputy Chief Mike Downing, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) and Imam Suhaib Webb, all of whom attested to MPAC’s timely, mature and principled work in making a positive impact on society.
 
A Community Leadership Award was presented to Judge Halim Dhanidina, the first Muslim judge appointed in California. Dhanidina said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community.
 
The climax of the evening took place when three speakers stepped forward to honor the man who had a lot to do with our success. This included poet and hip-hop artist Omar Offendum, who also performed one of Dr. Hathout’s poems for the audience; Hoda Elshishtawy, MPAC’s National Policy Analyst; and the Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints Church, Pasadena.

Offendum attributed Dr. Hathout’s pearls of wisdom to helping him understand there was no contradiction between being an artist and a Muslim. This paradigm shift was instrumental in helping him plant roots in America.
 
Elshishtawy credited Dr. Hathout’s foresight and insight with inspiring her to carry out MPAC’s goals in Washington, DC, and said she hopes she makes him proud.

Bacon said that while he inherited the relationship with Dr. Hathout as part of the church’s interfaith group, he is proud how the Los Angeles interfaith community has become a model to other cities.
 
“What resonated with me from the start was Dr. Hathout’s conviction that peacemaking is a central mandate of all three Abrahamic religions,” Bacon said. “I’m not an Islamophobe; I’m an Islamophile.”
 
Dr. Hathout then took the stage to an extended standing ovation from the audience.

ALSO SEE: Full video of Dr Maher Hathout's Keynote Address (YouTube.com)
 
“Don’t believe what is said it in the tribute. It is you who have made a difference,” Dr. Hathout said, giving credit to MPAC supporters and community members who have contributed to the organization’s success. He compared the American Muslim community with a well-maintained car. However costly, scratches, slashed tires and broken windshields can be fixed, – but a broken motor is a deal-breaker. Similarly, since 9/11, countless challenges and tragedies have negatively impacted the image of Islam, but MPAC’s motor has remained stronger than ever.
 
“What takes humans from place to place is an intact, functioning, well-cared-for car,” he said. “We need to jump start the car for all of humanity and future generations.”.
 
Dr. Esposito was the concluding speaker, who credited forward-thinking leaders Dr. Maher Hathout along with Dr. Hassan Hathout and Dr. Fathi Osman with helping to build the American Muslim identity by transcending their cultural roots and declaring that Islam is inclusive.
 
“In the post-911 world, the work of MPAC is especially important,” Dr. Esposito said. “To the extent that MPAC is a witness to what it means to be an American Muslim and to the extent that it takes its message not only throughout California but that it is present in Washington, that it interacts with policy-makers and that it has the kind of entrée that it has, is remarkable.
 
“It’s a time to celebrate the incredible legacy of Maher Hathout and I think the best way to do that is to make sure you reach that number that you need to reach tonight for the future of MPAC but even more importantly that you continue to grow your community, your Islamic center and MPAC exponentially – as much as you moved exponentially to get here, you continue that growth exponentially.”
 
The audience responded to Dr. Esposito’s fundraising challenge by surpassing the goal and donating a record of $240,000, the most raised at any MPAC banquet.
 
To continue the celebratory tone of the evening, the audience enjoyed the music and dance of AKNU. A trio of Muslim brothers from Los Angeles, AKNU is a high-spirited group that performed in the 2013 season of “The X Factor.”

ALSO SEE: Full video of the Convention Banquet (YouTube.com)
 
Although MPAC has had many twists and turns throughout, it has been “25 Years on the Road Less Traveled.” The 2013 convention and banquet were an unforgettable trip and we thank you for being part of them.
 
Be part of this journey by giving today and continue the momentum of the banquet! Your gift can help MPAC achieve its goals of serving our society and enhancing the civic participation of American Muslims.

Founded in 1988, MPAC is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of American Muslims.

[CONTACT: Marium Mohiuddin, 323-258-6722, marium@mpac.org]




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