Ramadan at the California State Capitol

By Ras H. Siddiqui

Sacramento: The Muslim community in California can now be proud of another first in this region as State elected officials, Assembly members Manny Diaz, Judy Chu, and Darrell Steinberg plus Senators Deborah Ortiz and Sheila Kuehl honored them and CAIR (Sacramento Valley) by holding the first ever Iftar (Ramadan breaking of the fast) inside the State Capitol building in Sacramento, the California Capital.

CAIR Sacramento Valley officials and volunteers at the California Capitol iftar
Azaan (call to prayer) could be heard inside the Capitol on the upper floors adjacent to the Jade Orchid Café (AKA the sixth floor Cafeteria) as Muslims and members of the legislative staff took the opportunity to consume dates and appetizers just before the Magrib prayers were held.

At a formal dinner gathering soon after, with the participation of close to a hundred people CAIR (SV) took this opportunity to gather together area leaders from the African-American, Arab, Indian, Iranian and Pakistani-American communities. Dr. Judy Chu and a number of legislative staffers (co-hosts) added a great deal to this event with their presence.

The fine Persian food served on the occasion was a hit with

Prayers at the California Capitol
everyone, amongst both the fasting and the previously feasting participants. Talking with Pakistan Link, Assemblywoman Chu said that she was happy that the Democrats in the California Legislature did well on November 2nd and were able to sustain and solidify their strength.

Master of Ceremony Javed Iqbal welcomed everyone. Tamer Ahmad made the introductions and said how proud he felt as a Muslim American at the event and how much it meant to us to have such good friends who have joined us here.
Assembly Member Dr. Judy Chu was the first speaker. “What a great day this is. The very first Iftar at the State Capitol,” she said. She added that the event proved what we can achieve if we all work together. She also reflected on the diversity that exists in the State of California which is a major plus. Assemblywoman Chu presented a “1st Annual Iftar/Ramadan Resolution” to CAIR (SV) President Rashid Ahmad on behalf of the sponsors (Diaz, Chu, Steinberg, Ortiz and Kuehl) recognizing Muslims as a most vibrant and productive community within the State of California.

Breaking fast together
On behalf of the office of Assembly Member Manny Diaz, his Chief of Staff Saeed M. Ali spoke briefly about his roots in Aligarh, India (Aligarh Muslim University), the uniqueness of Ramadan and what a joy it was to be here at the event, the first Iftar at the Capitol.
The keynote speech was given by Dr. Hatem Bazian from UC Berkeley. Dr. Bazian spoke about Muslims overcoming the hurdles of exclusion, their arrival in America (as some have documented possibly before Columbus) certainly amongst the slaves brought here forcibly from Africa and the more recent immigrants. He explained that Ramadan was a time of “habit breaking” restraint and relating to the poor and the hungry. He added that this was also the time of the year for Muslims to practice charity.

Dina El Nakhal next spoke about CAIR and CAIR’s role in the Sacramento Muslim community. She also shared her own Ramadan experiences in Egypt and thoughts on this month of fasting.
CAIR (SV) Executive Director Basim

Another group at the iftar
ElKarra closed the event with words of thanks to everyone for attending. “With all your help we are ready to make this Golden State a shining example for the world,” he said.

To conclude, this Iftar was certainly another significant step towards the recognition of Muslim beliefs in California. And beyond that it was a reflection of California itself, showing the rest of America its often hidden strengths. Here we had a Dr. Chu, an Asian-American presenting a resolution in English to a Muslim-American-Pakistani Rashid Ahmad in the heart of the Capitol of California after consuming delicious Iranian food and hearing speeches from Arab, Indian and the American born, being photographed by an African-American and a reporter sharing a table with a Dutch Indonesian and Indian-American (Ravi Kahlon from the Hispanic Lieutenant Governor’s Cruz Bustamante’s office). If this is not diversity, then I don’t know what is? Eid Mubarak!


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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