Event to bring together Japanese American, Jewish and American Muslim communities

On April 2, an event at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) will bring the Japanese American, Jewish and Muslim communities together for a night of reflection and solidarity. The discussion event is titled “Vigilance Against Injustice” and aims to uncover lessons from the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the Holocaust in Europe, “and the parallels that we can draw from those events to the bigotry and irrational fear of minority groups that is spreading today. Representatives from each community will share their stories and provide insight into what we can learn about the past so that we can build a stronger future together,” reads a press release.

The event will take place from 4-6 p.m. at 17550 N.E. 67th Court in Redmond.

The event is a joint collaboration between the Islamic Center of Bothell (ICOB) and MAPS.

“It’s vitally important that we take a look at everything that is going on in this country, and how minority groups are coming under attack. The most important thing we can do is come together and support one another, because when ordinary people stand by idly and do nothing, or give into irrational fear and hatred, that’s when society fails. We have to take the examples of the tragedies that came before us and understand how we can learn from them so we don’t repeat our mistakes,” said Ryan Welton, who is the director of Interfaith and Outreach at the Islamic Center of Bothell and also the lead organizer for the event.

Welton also provides his thoughts on the role of American Muslims in the fabric of American society:

“American Muslims share the same American values and freedoms that we all cherish, knowing that we are all in this together and uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. American Muslims share our country’s strong family values, dedicated to raising and educating our children, and want to succeed in the traditional American way – by working hard and supporting our families. American Muslims deserve the same opportunities as all Americans – to build better futures for our families and children.”

Event speakers:

Aneelah Afzali (event moderator and emcee) is the executive director of MAPS-AMEN (American Muslim Empowerment Network), an organization that seeks to spread understanding of Islam and raise awareness about Islamophobia, build coalitions with other faith groups and communities, and empower individuals and mobilize leaders with concrete actions toward justice for all. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and worked as an attorney for several years, before dedicating her career to interfaith advocacy work.

Kenji Onishi is a Japanese American who lived through the camps in World War II, and was 15 years old when he was incarcerated. After graduating from high school he was drafted into the military and served in the U.S. Army until 1946.

Dale H. Watanabe is an assistant director at the International Student Center of Seattle University. Having worked in the office since 2001, he was a witness to the impact of 9/11 on the campus community, especially to our Muslim population. He was co-chair of the 2011 Honorary Degree Committee at Seattle University to recognize the students of Japanese ancestry that were forced to leave their studies due to Executive Order 9066 in 1942. He currently is involved as an executive member of the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee that organizes the annual trip to the Minidoka National Historic Site in Idaho, where Japanese American residents of Washington, Oregon and Alaska were confined during World War II. He has been involved in the campus Day of Remembrance programming surrounding the anniversary date of the signing of EO 9066 on February 19th. His family was imprisoned in Minidoka for three years in Block 14, Barrack 10, family number 11755.

Ron Friedman is an attorney who serves as vice president of the board of directors of the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, whose mission is to combat bigotry and bias through the lessons of the Holocaust. He is the son of a Holocaust survivor and was a federal prosecutor in Seattle for many years prior to entering private practice, and has done work for Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy group, educating individuals as to their civil liberties.

Tarek Dawoud is the president of the Washington Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations of Washington State (CAIR-WA), and also the president of the Interfaith and Outreach Committee at the MAPS. He works in the technology sector and has been educating others about Islam for 15 years in the Seattle area.