The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today announced that Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca was awarded with the 'Courage in Leadership' award for his consistent engagement with and support of the American Muslim community. The award was given at CAIR-LA's 14th Annual Banquet on Saturday, Oct. 30.
Sheriff Baca, who was out of the country and couldn't receive the award in person, shared an exclusive heartwarming videotaped message with CAIR-LA banquet attendees. Deputy Sherif Morsi thanked CAIR-LA and the Muslim community on the sheriff's behalf.
SEE: Sheriff Baca's Exclusive Video Message
Moreover, CAIR-LA Civil Rights Manager Affad Shaikh gave the award to Sheriff Baca at Muslim American Homeland Security Congress' (MAHSC) monthly meeting last week.
Sheriff Baca, who became LA County Sheriff in 1998, has set a national tone of positive outreach with American Muslims. He initiated the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress (MAHSC) with Southern California Muslims to increase cooperation between Muslims and law enforcement and amplify their voice in national security discussions. He also launched the sheriff department's Muslim Affairs Liaison Unit, further strengthening ties between the Muslim community and the department.
Earlier this year, Sheriff Baca advocated positive engagement with American Muslims in a Congressional testimony. He stated:
"Americans, particularly elected officials, should not claim Islam supports terrorism. This is counter-productive to trust. It plays into the terrorist strategy that the West is against Islam. At this time in our history, with billions of dollars being spent on a war against terror, our nation should ask that all Americans follow President Obama's example and be the instrument of goodwill to Muslims throughout the world.
"It is my belief that the average American has the potential to be our best ambassador of goodwill. However, senators, members of congress, governors, mayors, boards of supervisors, sheriffs, police chiefs, scholars, scientists, and laborers and their leaders must set the example with a desire to visit mosques and communicate with Muslims, worldwide, in the quest of better understanding Islam. Extremists are what they are, but they cannot thrive or survive in a world that is not indifferent."
The sheriff also stood up for the Muslim community and its leadership by rejecting Islamophobia and McCarthyism when a Congressman, Mark Souder (R-IN), questioned his association with American Muslims during the hearing.
SEE:LA County Sheriff in a Shouting Match (KPCC)
After the hearing, Sheriff Baca said: ". . .when a member of Congress is that misinformed, you gotta question whether or not they understand what their constitutional obligations are when it comes to public safety."
"Sheriff Baca, through leadership and personal engagement, has reinforced our country's values of pluralism, tolerance, and civic engagement,"said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its 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.