AMA Honors Three Distinguished Leaders
By Hazem Kira
Speakers at the AMA function held to honor the late Abdul Sattar Rydhan, Dr. Waheed Siddiqee and Mr. Sayed Inamdar
Newark, CA: Over three hundred community members from across the San Francisco Bay Area flocked to Newark’s Mehran Restaurant to honor their community’s local pioneers. In an assembly line of nearly forty speakers, many of whom choked as they fought back tears as they addressed the audience, the two-part program began with a somber memorial for long time community activist Abdul Sattar Rydhan, whose recent passing on March 19 at the age of 64, came unexpectedly. The program’s second half honored two of its most prominent leaders, who continue till this day in their decade’s long community service: Dr. Waheed Siddiqee and Mr. Sayed Inamdar.
Organized by the American Muslim Alliance, a national civic education organization with 101 chapters, this event featured the family and friends of those being honored as well as community luminaries who came from far-and-wide. The speakers included Amir Abdul-Malik Ali, Imam of the Masjid Al Islam in Oakland, Dr. Rajabally and Imam Siraj of the Fremont Lowry Mosque, Imam Rafiq of Mountain View, and Imam Tahir Ali of San Jose’s South Bay Islamic Association.
“This occasion,” said the Chair of the American Muslim Alliance, Dr. Agha Saeed, “is to institutionalize the spirit of community organizing, sacrifice, and giving by honoring those whose lives exemplify these cherished qualities. We also want to highlight these role models so that they could inspire and guide our Muslim youth.”
For over thirty years, these three individuals – Abdul Sattar Rydhan, Dr. Waheed Siddiqee and Mr. Sayed Inamdar – have actively struggled to build essential grassroots institutions and community centers where none previously existed.
Abdul Sattar Rydhan, who arrived in the United States in 1969, co-founded the San Jose Mosque (SBIA), and eventually was an essential figure in the creation of mosques in Mountain View and Milpitas. Among other things, he served as a former President of the American Muslim Alliance SF Bay Area, and his reach and proactive influence trickled down to virtually every local organization. “He did the job of five, six people,” said Khalid Tai, “and I mean five, six active people.”
“Back in Pakistan, he was my friend in high school. He actually helped get me back into school after I dropped out. Because of him I completed my school, and went on to get a university degree,” said Abdul Quddus Jaka.
“One of my non-Muslim friends was feeling sick,” said Feraidoon Mojadedi, owner of Rumi’s Bookstore, “and Br. Abdul Sattar went to his dealership, someone he doesn’t even know, and dropped off some much needed medicine.”
“Since I was an only son, said Arif Maskatia, my mother did not want me to leave (Pakistan), but he (Abdul Sattar) said, don’t worry, I will take care of it. And after I left to go to school in the US, he visited my mother twice a day, so that she wouldn’t miss me. And then when he left for America, she missed him more than she missed me!”
“Indeed, the best way we can honor this man,” said Dr. Rajabally, “is to continue the great work he started.”
As if to answer, Abdul Sattar’s oldest son, Irfan, rose to speak, “My family and I will continue our father’s legacy and InshaAllah with Allah’s help and the support of the community we will take it to the next level.” AMA’s most prestigious award, the “M.T. Mehdi Life Long Achievement Award” awarded to Abdul Sattar Rydhan, was then read and presented to Irfan by Syed Rafat Mahmood.
Dr. Waheed Siddiqee
As the hours passed, an almost intoxicated state filled the audience as speakers’ narrated stories and recited poetry, and inebriated audience members asked if they too could chime in and share their stories and lament. This continued into the second portion of the program where long time friends and activists of the community Mr. Sayed Inamdar and Dr. Waheed Siddiquee were formally honored. The event that was to end at 10:45 that evening, as a result, reached far into the night, till the clock struck midnight.
“Dr. Siddiqee is a giant and an icon in the Bay Area Muslim community,” observed longtime friend Javed Khan. “I have always known him to be a very patient, reasonable, and a wise man who has made tremendous contributions to our community.”
Dr. Waheed Siddiqee, founder and cofounder of a number of organizations in the Bay Area, has been in America for over forty years. His outreach work began in the early nineties, during the Gulf War, when he started interfaith groups and dialog in order to facilitate mutual understanding during a time of tense racial and religious relations.
Said Iftekhar Hai, a longtime friend of Dr. Siddiqee, “Whatever I do and for as long as I can remember, I have gone to Dr. Siddiqee to ask his advice. He has been a true mentor and example for me and I always appreciate and treasure his perspective.”
Amina Jandali (Dr. Siddiqee’s niece) observed: “He is the best uncle anyone could ever ask for. Although he is the youngest of four siblings, Dr. Siddiqee is the glue that holds the family together.”
Amer Siddiqee (Dr. Siddiqee’s elder son) sstated: “I am very proud to be my parents’ son and I have learned a great deal from them. I am constantly seeking to emulate the high standards they have set.”
Attorney Javed Ellahie, another longtime friend of Dr. Siddiqee, said: “One of Dr. and Mrs. Siddiqee’s greatest accomplishments is in the raising of their two sons, who are very impressive in their own right. If a tree is judged by the fruit it bears, then parents are judged by their offspring, and Amer and Athar serve as role models for other young people.”
Athar Siddiqee (Dr. Siddiqee’s younger son) said: “These days, you will find my father with a smile on his face, a cup of chai in his hand, and an idea as to how to make the world a better place on his mind. We all have heroes and individuals we admire. For some their hero is Imran Khan or John Wayne or Michael Jordan. I have a hero, too -- and he happens to be sitting right here in front of me.”
“Dr. Waheed Siddiqee is distinguished by four factors”, Dr. Agha Saeed said: “By the balanced life he has created for his family; by the outstanding public performance of his two sons; by his continued work as a teacher of math and science; and by his mild-mannered approach to conflict management.”
At the end, Mrs. Sabiha Siddiqee gave the AMA plaque to her husband.
Mr. Sayed Inamdar is the embodiment of the American dream – a proud citizen, a proud Muslim, and a vanguard of Muslim immigrant community.
He was one of the first Muslims to work as a Commissioner for the City of Fremont, and served on the senior citizens commission for many years. He also ran for public office, at a time when Muslims didn’t see the wisdom of such things. As part of his dedication to Muslims participating in the political process, he became involved in the Republican party and due to his involvement, he served as a delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention. He was invited to the Capitol building in Washington DC as a special guest.
Sayed Inamdar retired in the early 1990’s but chose not to have a quiet retirement. Instead he jumped into community service with great deal of zeal, enthusiasm and determination. He has worked hard to contribute to the community, at times sacrificing his own health.
He has always strongly believed that Muslims should engage in civic life and has worked to advance the Muslim community in the US and in India. He was President of the Islamic Society of East for many years, and with his leadership, guided the development and construction of the Lowry Street Masjid and the full-time school.
In the 90’s, Mr. Inamdar suffered health problems and ended up in a hospital for heart related surgery. Even at this time, he did not stop thinking and planning for community projects. He had to fight Alameda County to have a Muslim cemetery but finally he succeeded and thus we have the Five Pillar Farm in Livermore.
“Our father, has always been an example to us on how to persevere even in the face of extreme adversity,” said daughter Reshma Yunus
“One of his significant contributions was that he had a vision for strengthening the local Muslim community and building Muslim institutions in the United States, while still actively engaging with the community at large.”
He worked in Saudi Arabia for more then a decade and then retired in the nineties. “Anyone who knows him knows that he was busier than ever after retirement. He, even after suffering a serious stroke, continued his activism and sometimes still writes letters to legislatures and the President of the US (when he can get someone to help him type –usually me).”
Vouching for Sayed Inamdar’s trustworthiness and strong personality, longtime business partner and friend Rana Nadim Ahmed, said, “In Islam we are told that one really doesn’t know a person until they either go on a long trip with that person or they do business with them. I’ve done many business deals with Mr. Inamdar, and I’m here to tell you that he is a truly honorable and honest man.”
Prominent local leader, Dr. Rajabally said that he and Sayed Inamdar had made a great team, and that if Sayed Inamdar was the longest running President at ISEB, he was the longest running Vice President. That he provided strong leadership, even putting his own money on the line for the masjid.
Imam Siraj and Nihal Nazim Khan commended Mr. Inamdar for the considerable amount of time and effort he put into constructing and leading the Lowry Masjid, where he served humbly in multiple leadership positions.
A plaque in his honor was then read by Moina Shaikh, recently designated “Woman of the Year,” by local state Senator Ellen Corbett. “It is we who are truly honored to have had you as a part of this community’s life blood. I don’t know where we would have been without people like you,” said Shaikh.
“Inamdar Sahib has been helping many groups and causes without ever seeking name, fame or recognitions. He is a great role model for the youth.” Dr. Agha Saeed said.