A Positive Development in Antioch
A Pakistan Link Report

 


Antioch Mayor Don Freitas presents Mohammad Chaudhry with the official city lapel pin as gesture that Muslims are a part of the Antioch Community

Pittsburg, CA: July 30, 2005 was a great day for the Muslim community of the East Bay Area, as on this day they hosted a goodwill party which was attended by the Mayor of the city of Antioch, Mr. Freitas, the Police Chief, Mr. Moczulski, and Captain Allan Cantando.
The event was covered by the local newspapers as well as by the crew of TV channel 2 and various radio stations. The Contra Times headlined it as "East Bay Muslims Plan to Meet with Area Officials", and Mr Randy Myers, the Times Staff Writer summed it up in the following words: "Mohammad Chaudhry wants East Contra Costa's Muslims and community leader to know each other better. That's why the president of Antioch's Islamic Center of East Bay invited the mayor and the city's police chief to meet Saturday with members of the Muslim community. Perhaps there has never been a greater need on the part of Muslims to reach out, Mr. Chaudhry said. And Islamic centers, in his opinion, are the best forums for reconciliation, for true understanding.
Chaudhry said rough estimates show East Country has more than 500 Muslim households. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Islamic center received two or three threatening phone calls, he said. Encouraging letters, cards and phone calls from the community quickly overshadowed those. He keeps the written messages in a file at the center.
“One person wrote: ‘This tragedy has hurt all of us, but I am most deeply concerned for the Arabs in our community. There are those who, in their ignorance, seek an outlet for their rage and frustration; but there are also many who recognize our brethren, regardless of creed, and seek only togetherness and understanding. You still have many friends to call upon. ‘"
“Muslims must stress to the public that the terrorists violate Islam's very tenets and represent a small, extreme faction,” Mr. Chaudhry said.
"There is absolutely no room for the kind of things that are now happening and which are being perpetrated by a few individuals who were never in the mainstream of Islam".
The Antioch Express headlined the event as: "Antioch Muslims ask city Officials for Help". Cindy Nelson who attended the meeting wrote, "The July 30 meeting at the Islamic Center in Antioch with Antioch Mayor Don Freitas and Police Chief Mark MOczulski was a result of negative phone calls directed at the Muslim community, one as recently as last week.
“Mohammad Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of East Bay, thanked the police for its presence in the Muslim community following the 9/11 attacks and for extra patrols during Muslim holidays. He also noted that Muslims needed to get more involved in the community in change the perception of Muslims from terrorists to law-abiding citizens.
"People like bin Laden and his associates have made Islam look like a hot piece of coal," Said Mr. Chaudhry. "It is time for the West to understand that criminals are criminals, and they need to be treated as such. To bind others in faith with the crazy glue of guilt by association is neither moral nor justifiable under any condition".
The Mayor then presented Chaudhry with the official city lapel pin as gesture that Muslims are a part of the Antioch Community. Chief Moczulski said, "Understanding the cultural beliefs and behaviors of all cultures in our community is important to me". The Chief introduced Police Captain Allan Cantando so that local Muslims will have a direct line of communication with the police if they encounter any future problems.
Muslims constitute about four percent of the city of Antioch, which is approximately 500 families. Most Muslims hold a college degree and earn over $50,000 per year. The evening concluded with a delicious meal prepared by the women members of the Antioch Islamic Center of East Bay.
The Valley Times gave the event a different headline, "East Bay Muslims to meet with officials for outreach". Islamic Center leader says people of his faith must take the initiative if understanding is to be reached with others. To counter the negative images of Islam, Chaudhry encourages American Muslims to become more visible and active in their communities, an approach aimed at ending stereotypes, the retired English teacher said.
Mayor Don Freitas calls the event, "I think this is a very positive development”. Mr. Zohair Jamal, a student member of community, opined that Muslims need to stand up and let people know what Islam is all about.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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