Ambassador Attallah Shabazz was the keynote speaker for the fourth annual gala of the Minnesota Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR.) Shabazz,is the eldest daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. She is a writer and producer and has been appointed as Ambassador-at-Large by the prime minister of Belize.
CAIR welcomed Shabazz to this year’s gala (held February 26 in Minneapolis), which was themed, “Carrying the Legacy: Advancing With Confidence.” Tickets for the event were sold to the general public, and more than 200 people attended.
Shabazz spoke about her views on racial and religious diversity in America. “Imagine your parents or grandparents being discriminated against just for something as simple as praying, wearing what you need to wear, facing the east, or bowing,” Shabazz said. “You had to know the truth (that discrimination was wrong), so that you know its value. So that you don’t mind taking the risk of standing up for something.”
In her speech she not only highlighted race and religious tolerance, but also candidly discussed her life. Shabazz specifically challenged the way that her father was vilified in the media.
“I was able to live through the 70s, 80s, and 90s while all kinds of people were making attacks, assessments, or presumptions on my father,” she said. “The man that hated people, and then suddenly loved people. You can’t suddenly love people. You have to always love people.”
She called her father her best friend, and said, “If there were one misconception I could correct about my parents, it’s that they were human. … People only saw him (Malcolm X) as a leader, not as a man. They (her parents) were so zealously dedicated (to advancing civil rights) that they didn’t take care of themselves. My parents always worked on the behalf of other people.”
Congressman Keith Ellison was also present at the gala, and talked about the positive impact that Malcolm X had on the world. Referring to the current conflicts in the Middle East, Ellison said, “If you hate oppression for yourself than you should hate the oppression of others too. We (Americans) believe and fight for our right to speak our minds and seek justice. Why should those things we believe in stop at the water’s edge?”
CAIR honored two people with its annual Courage Award. Each year CAIR honors local heroes who have actively taken a stance against intolerance and who have fought religious discrimination. One of the honorees, a young woman named Nimo Warfa, fought anti-Muslim sentiment at her high school in St. Cloud. Warfa first came to the attention of CAIR when she attended a town hall meeting in St. Cloud. CAIR ‘s Outreach Director, Kashif Saroya, said that Warfa’s passion on this issue made her stand out at the town hall meeting. “She spoke very eloquently about how as a young person she could make a difference. She really impressed us.”
Warfa stated that the discrimination in her high school reached a fever pitch one day when a student told her they would “put a bullet in her head” if she didn’t stop fighting discrimination against Muslims. She said, “I thought, well, if I’m going to die, at least I’m going to die for a just cause.”
In her acceptance speech Warfa also described her views on discrimination, stating, “If I see a Muslim or a non-Muslim being oppressed then I’m going to fight for them. I’m not going to let one person stop me from fighting for the rights of all people,” She urged the crowd to take a stand against intolerance, quoting Malcolm X’s statement: “Stand for the community even if you stand alone.”
CAIR, headquartered in Washington. D.C., emerged as a new civil rights organization in 1994, with its Minneapolis chapter created in 2006. CAIR provides an array of services including legal representation, creating media campaigns, and many other programs. Last September CAIR took on a civil rights case against Delta Airlines, in which CAIR-MN asked the organization to review its policies on what constitutes as suspicious behavior on a flight. CAIR also provides Know Your Rights Training to local corporations like Macy’s, Best Buy, Target, and many other businesses. CAIR provides Know Your Rights Training to educate Muslim Americans about their civil rights, and what avenues they can take to make sure that their rights are upheld in the workplace. Nearly one-third of civil rights complaints the organization received in 2010 focused on employment issues.