By Ras H. Siddiqui
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.
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 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
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 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!