Pakistani Americans in Los Angeles Stir up Storm for Peace and Moderation
By Haya Farooqui
Pictures by YKKB
The dynamic Pakistani-American community in Los Angeles demonstrates unity, faith and discipline
Los Angeles, CA: May 30, 2009 turned out to be a historic day in Southern California . It saw several hundred Pakistani Americans band together in a rare display of solidarity to censure extremism and express concern over the current displacement crisis in Pakistan . Their express keenness to make a substantial difference in the lives of the displaced people was all too evident.
The success of the rally owes to the zest and enterprise of a handful of like-minded friends who got together one afternoon after receiving numerous emails, letters and phone calls from all over the world, to discuss the dismal state of affairs in Pakistan and to deliberate on ideas to promote peace. They ended up organizing one of the most talked about events in Southern California.
The purpose of the Peace for Pakistan Rally was clearly spelled out by one of the organizers: “We are moderate individuals of Pakistani origin who want to see Pakistan progress and succeed on the international level. We understand that progress and prosperity will be achieved and democracy will prevail only if the people of Pakistan are empowered by education and economic improvement. We want every Pakistani child to have the opportunity to receive an education and end the cycle of poverty that exists in the nation.”
Heeding the call of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding the infiltration of Talibans, the Pakistani-American community of Southern California decided to come out and openly denounce the despicable acts of extremism performed daily in their beloved country in the name of Islam. “I have not witnessed anything like this in the 30 years I’ve lived in the USA,” said an enthusiastic participant of the rally sitting on the front steps of City Hall, Los Angeles.
Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil, is an apt observation of the philosopher Plato, and in the context of Pakistan appropriately identifies the issue. Pakistan’s biggest enemy today is ignorance, not the neighboring countries. Those who are in denial need to wake up and accept the reality and start working on making up for the damage.
Glimpses of the rally
All the people present at the rally declared that the splendid display of camaraderie was one of the most touching moments to witness. The rally that brought together approximately six hundred people of all ages, on an extremely busy weekend, from all over southern California sent a succinct message that the Pakistani-American community shares the pain of the people living in Pakistan. “We did not want to miss this opportunity to voice our sentiments even though we had to drive for two hours,” said a couple excitedly with a spark in their eyes. They drove all the way from San Diego.
Another lady, who was an Indian-American, when asked what made her come to the rally replied, “We wanted to show solidarity with the Pakistani community in fighting extremism as this is one storm that is gaining momentum and very soon several other countries will be engulfed in its path if not stopped in time.”
Dil Dil Pakistan and other patriotic songs resonated in the background while several hundred people tried to make their way up the stairs to catch a glimpse of the sufi/rock star Salman Ahmed of Junoon band speaking on this issue. Salman had the audience fully engaged with his powerful and passionate speech that led the crowd roaring with chants of Pakistan Zindabad! Salman reiterated that we need to be united in these trying times and work together in resolving problems.
The event had attracted two more world class speakers including Ms. Farhana Ali ( who specially flew in from DC to attend this event) who is a counterterrorism analyst, a writer and sought-after public speaker on conflicts in the Muslim world and who has provided expert opinion on CNN, BBC and several other prominent channels. Dr. Nayyer Ali, who is a physician and board member of Muslim Public Affairs Council MPAC and a regular columnist of Pakistan Link, was another renowned speaker at the rally.
Farhana Ali stressed the fact that Pakistan is fighting a war that was initiated outside Pakistan but morphed into an internal war. “ Pakistan will recover but they will have to work on it. Only if the civil society engages with the policy makers here in the USA and Pakistan by writing to senators and congressmen, by calling them, setting up meetings to voice their concerns,” said Farhana Ali.
Dr Nayyar Ali emphasized that the world needs to be educated in understanding that inequality and injustice are the root causes that led the extremists to gain ground in Pakistan.
After the speeches the emcee requested the crowd to participate in the text for SWAT program (initiated by Hillary Clinton to provide humanitarian aid to the IDP’s of Pakistan) that automatically charges $5 each time you text the numbers 20222 and type in SWAT. Everyone was asked to text together at a given time which helped raise funds in the gathering too without putting a major dent in any one’s wallet.
We must obstruct the blow of the oppressor when human lives and human dignities are at stake, regardless of their color, creed or country; to remain silent after witnessing a crime is worse than committing the actual crime. We need to come out of our cocoons and protest against the blatant atrocities that the extremists are inflicting by distorting Islam and by exploiting the poor souls of our country by taking advantage of their ignorance.
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Following are Youtube links to the rally: