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Attendees express mixed emotions at CAIR gala amid situation in Gaza

It was a mix of sadness and pride Saturday night in the South Bay at one of the largest gatherings of Muslims in the Bay Area.

More than 1,200 people attended the 29th anniversary gala for the Council on American Islamic relations or CAIR. But at the same time, many of the attendees were mourning the loss of loved ones killed in Gaza.

Security was tight at the Santa Clara Convention Center, including additional Santa Clara police officers. But that didn’t not deter people from gathering to mourn and move forward.

Basim Elkarra, executive director of CAIR Sacramento, told NBC Bay Area that he has personally lost more than two dozen family members.

“Both my parents were born in the Gaza Strip and we lost several family members. We just lost one of our cousins, he was a journalist, was killed yesterday,” he said.

CAIR leaders say the ripple effect of the war in the Middle East is an increase in hate crimes targeting Bay Area Muslims.

“We have received dozens of complaints of Islamophobic incidents in the last several weeks,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR Bay Area. “We’ve received complaints about children at school being bullied and harassed. We’ve received complaints about people in workplaces, feeling targeted and alienated by their workplace’s environment and their support for Israel at those companies. And then, we’ve received complaints of violent hate crimes.”

Just last week, a Stanford student of Syrian decent was the victim of a hit-and-run on campus. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies are now investigating the attack as a hate crime and released a sketch of the suspect.

In the meantime, CAIR leaders say they urged people who attended Saturday’s event to put more pressure on elected officials to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

“We’ve watched more than 10,000 Palestinians be killed by the Israeli government. Our job is to push back and to advocate for peace,” Billoo said.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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