Ramadan at the California State Capitol
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Hamza El Nakhal
Dave Jones
Dexter McNamara
Rev Thompson
Saeed Ali

The California State Capitol building became the focal point of Ramadan celebrations in the State on Wednesday, October 19, 2005, as close to a hundred people heard the Azan or prayer call here. Muslim men and women broke their fast with the traditional dates and water and proceeded to say their prayers while many non-Muslim friends and legislative staff workers looked on.

This is the second time that the Council on American-Islamic Relations of the Sacramento Valley (CAIR-SV) has held this historic event here at the Capitol as the encouragement from the corridors of power in the State for this event has grown from four members of the legislature last year to ten. State Senators Richard Alarcon, Liz Figueroa, Deborah Ortiz, Elaine Alquist, Tom Torlakson and Sheila Kuehl along with members of the Assembly Dave Jones, Judy Chu, Lois Wolk and Roger Niello were the co-hosts of the gathering this year. And for this the State’s Muslim community is deeply appreciative.


A group of invitees at the Iftar function

After the evening prayers the gathering shifted to the Basement Rotunda Cafeteria for a fine Afghan-Persian dinner. CAIR-SV President Hamza El-Nakhal welcomed everyone. He said that we are blessed to be in this country during Ramadan, even though this year during this month we have seen great tragedy with the earthquake in South Asia/Pakistan as we had just barely recovered from Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
Shaikh Refat and his beautiful Qur’anic recitation opened the event. Various members of the local Legislative Staff, Interfaith and American Muslim leadership spoke on not only the significance of this gathering but also looked forward to a bright future for Islam and Muslims not only in California but all over the United States. Br. Rashid Ahmad made the individual introductions.
Assemblymen Dave Jones in his speech highlighted being “heavy of heart” because it was just more than four years now that Americans who happen to be Muslims have had to face extreme difficulty. But he added that he was inspired by their refusal to be intimidated, a determination that is reflected in gatherings such as this one.
CAIR-Sacramento Valley Executive Director Basim ElKarra in his speech was very appreciative of the efforts made by the Sacramento Muslim community in various endeavors, especially when it collected over $100,000 for Hurricane Katrina relief. He also reminded everyone that Muslim countries pledged over one billion dollars towards that effort (a fact not noted by the mainstream American media). On this occasion he added: “Ramadan is becoming a part of the American fabric.”


Prayers at the Capitol

Saeed M. Ali, Chief of Staff for Senator Richard Alarcon added his support to the event and stated that as a non-practitioner but as one culturally tied to the faith he remembered that one of the things the Qur’an does continually emphasize is hope, and that this occasion was a reflection of that hope.
Rev. David Thompson in his speech made the following point: “We must reclaim the heart of America and Muslims need to be a part of that,” he said. Irafan Haq of SALAM said that he was thankful to God for this opportunity for all of us to be together at this event at the Capitol and prayed for peace in America and the world. Dexter McNamara of the local Interfaith Service Bureau called for positive changes. “Be the change that you would like to see,” he said.
Tamer Ahmad of CAIR ended the program with the following words: “We thank Allah for giving us this chance to celebrate our diversity.”
(Note: The Pakistani-American community would like to extend its thanks to all American Muslim and Interfaith groups for their generosity towards earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan and Kashmir. It is great to note that we have friends who we can count on in our hour of need).

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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