Sacramento Furnishes Proof
that It Cares
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Sacramento, California
Interfaith and Ethnic community in a city known for its diversity
held yet another fundraiser for the victims of the devastating
earthquake in South Asia (mainly Kashmir and Pakistan) on
Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at The Grand on J Street. This gathering
hosted by Iranian-American Mo Mohanna in the heart of downtown
Sacramento, succeeded in generating what appeared to be much
more than a full shipping container of warm clothes, tents,
sleeping bags and other outdoor survival gear for some of
the millions left homeless by the quake.
In addition to the supplies, over $65,000 were raised to be
distributed amongst a number of charitable organizations including
the Edhi Foundation, Islamic Relief, Church World Services,
President’s Relief Fund and the Hidaya Foundation for
the victims of nature’s most recent catastrophic strike.
Mr. Rashid Ahmad opened the program. “This is a community
we can be proud of,” he said. And one can only agree
just judging from the number of fundraising events that this
area has held recently.
Host Mohamed Mohanna bid everyone welcome. “We are blessed
to be here,” he said. Mo elaborated on the sameness
of man and the fact that the Human Race is sometimes at its
best when faced with disasters. “Let us see what we
can do for our less fortunate people,” he said.
|Above: Glimpses of the fundraiser
Sacramento County Supervisor
Roger Dickenson added many words of support. “You are
a very important part of what makes Sacramento a special place,”
he said. “Tonight, what brings us together is to help
our fellow human beings in need.” Roger added that we
need to help those that have lost everything and that our
contributions, no matter how little they may seem, could make
an enormous difference to the victims of the earthquake.
Tamer Ahmed next started the official fundraiser with a recitation
from the Holy Qur’an.
Sister Durriya Syed spoke next. Along with her husband Naeem
Syed, Durriya has been very active in the Sacramento area,
working on a number of projects. She is currently Vice President
of the Interfaith Service Bureau. “Sacramento is the
best,” she said. “Whenever we have tragedies,
we always come together.” She encouraged everyone to
watch a slide show and a short movie clip. “Religion
is not complete without compassion,” she said as Dexter
McNamara, also of the Interfaith Service Bureau, spoke next
and quoted from scripture and defined what good neighborliness
is all about. “Thank you for being like neighbors to
those in need,” he said.
A number of youth presentations were worthy of note. Alia
Abid represented Islamic Relief and the Muslim Students Association
in Davis. Zaki Syed presented a moving Rap number “Let’s
put our hands together and pray, for the people that passed
away….” (Zaki received a standing ovation), Dina
El-Nakhal from CAIR (Sacramento Valley) made a moving appeal
and Sara Halim Khan shared with the gathering her personal
experience of the earthquake because she was there. Sara described
collapsing college walls and the quick setting up of tent
hospitals to treat the wounded.
One of the forces behind this event T. Sami Siddiqui talked
about a telephone conversation that he had with his brother
in Karachi, Pakistan about the lack of medical care for the
earthquake victims and amputations that had become common
due to lack of medicines for the wounded. This was just motivating
factor for him and many here.
Javad Rahimian joined
a number of other Iranian Americans at this fundraiser and
spoke of the human race being a part of the same body. He
presented a poem and said that when tragedies like this happen,
it is depressing, but somehow they also make us better human
beings. The Rahimians made a substantial donation to the victims
of the South Asian earthquake at this event.
Local Arab-American businessman and community leader Kais
Menoufy spoke of his own struggles in life. “What I
have in my pocket is not something that I had a few years
ago. And if I go tomorrow, I am going without taking anything
with me,” he said. He urged everyone to contribute generously
to a struggling people and said that since he has learnt to
share things in life with others he has quit worrying about
many unnecessary things.
Azmat Siddiqui spoke of his experience and the positive response
that he had received at his place of employment, the Future
Ford car dealership. He said that billions of dollars
were spent in America on Halloween and asked why we could
not spare a considerably lesser sum for these earthquake victims.
Bashir Choudry, President of the local Pakistan Association,
made an emotional appeal. He prayed to God to give the victims
the strength to bear their pain and said that he was thankful
to the Sacramento community for their generosity. “We
are a (true) global community,” he said. “No matter
how small a donation, please give to the people in Pakistan,”
Shabbir Shaikh, of Kashmiri origins and a Davis, California
businessman made a very special call for help. Shabbir lost
his brother and other relatives in this earthquake and found
it difficult to express his emotions. He spoke of the massive
devastation in his homeland and said that a number of areas
had not yet been reached by relief crews.
Lester Smith from the local Jewish community brought a check
from his group and said a few words. “The oneness of
God is common to both Judaism and Islam,” he said.
In closing, after a number of people agreed to pay for tents
(at $100 each) and while some literally emptied their pockets
on the request of Mr. Rashid and the final fund numbers ($65,000)
came from Javed Iqbal and Basim Elkarra, a number of thoughts
came to mind as I was leaving. As a person of Pakistani origin
who can feel only a distant pain of loss for earthquake victims
there, I left this venue with a sense of pride in the community
in which I live. Sacramento Muslims and non-Muslims, Arab,
Indian and Iranian-Americans all pitched in for this effort.
It was great to learn that Sacramento cares!