AMA Candidates Forum in Newark

By Ras H. Siddiqui

The American Muslim Alliance (AMA) held a Candidates Forum at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark, California, on Saturday, October 23. And in keeping with the goals that this organization has set for itself locally (as it keeps very busy nationally), the gathering attracted candidates vying for office on November 2 from Fremont and Union City for a number of seats on the school and hospital boards, City Council, and the Mayor’s office.

L to R: Steve Cho and Bob Wiecowshi
Before continuing this short report due to publication deadlines and reporter fatigue (there were 4 events to which this writer was invited, but only two could be attended), it is important to mention that Dr. Agha Saeed of the AMA had arrived back from the Eastern US where the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, an umbrella organization consisting of the AMA and several other Muslim groups, gave a “qualified” endorsement to Democrat John Kerry in his Presidential race against President Bush on November 2. Dr. Saeed was at this forum and put the most pressing question to the candidates from the Muslim-American point of view: “As we are talking about protecting this country, are we also willing to protect the constitution…?”

But now back to the local races. The Fremont Unified School Board candidates included Nina Moore, Peggy Herndon, Ivy Wu and Rose Wargas. These four candidates are running for three available seats, the importance of which can be gauged by the fact that these positions have an impact on the quality of education our children receive.

Eapen, Nicholson, Danielson, Baig and Wong
Health Care and the local Washington Hospital Board election also received much attention as Dr. Khalid Baig, Dr. Nicholson, Pat Danielson, Jacob Eapen and Suzanna Wong made their case before the predominantly but not exclusively Muslim gathering.

The quality of local health care received at Washington Hospital was discussed at length.

The Fremont City Council election received maximum attention both on local as well as national issues. Local issues that dominated the presentations given by candidates Steve Cho, Rakesh Sharma and Bob Wiecowski included the economy and jobs. Incumbent Steve Cho said that he intended to go after the state for shortchanging the cites, Rakesh Sharma (graduate of Aligarh Muslim University in India) wanted to create a more business friendly Fremont, and Bob Wiecowski gave his “unqualified” support against the Patriot Act. “Once you chop away at our civil liberties, it is very hard to bring them back,” he said.

The Fremont Mayor’s race brought Bob Wasserman and Bill Pease to this forum and Mark Green, running for Mayor of Union City attended. For the Union City Council race, Ben Elias and Jim Navarro got a chance to interact with local voters here. That the gathering was “Fremont heavy” was quite apparent.

In conclusion, the AMA that has remained at the forefront of and retained Muslim community activism in Northern California by working diligently for the last decade. Sister Moina Shaiq did a great job moderating matters at this gathering. In times like these when the activism has become more of a necessity, especially at the local level, it is good to note that this group has shown the wisdom to hold a forum such as this one just before election time. To be remembered as “The Ramadan Election” by many of us in future, let us hope that this time not just Muslims but all Americans show wisdom in selecting their next leaders.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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