AMV Foundation’s 2010 Peace Convention Draws Large Crowd
Report by Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Pictures by Talat Mahmood
Speakers and participants in the AMV Foundation’s 2010 Peace Convention
The American Muslim Voice Foundation held its 2010 Peace Convention on March 20, 2010 at the Muslim Community Association Banquet Hall in Santa Clara , CA. The convention drew a large crowd from near and far towns. This year’s theme was From Fear to Friendship: Replacing the Culture of Despair, Division and Violence with a Culture of Hope, Inclusion and Peace.
"Preaching to the Choir" was the title of the speech of Judge LaDores Cordell who was the keynote speaker. Sharing her experience from the civil rights movement, the Judge stated it takes courage to stand up against injustice and ordinary citizens must take those courageous steps before we can build a movement. “Courageous people like Rosa Parks and other individuals played a key role in building the civil rights movement.” She congratulated American Muslim Voice Foundation for being courageous and walking on the path of building an inclusive, beloved and peaceful world. She also praised AMV for trying to replace the culture of despair, division and violence with a culture of hope, inclusion and peace.
Pete McHugh, Vice Mayor, Milpitas , CA shared his thoughts on “Building a Beloved Community” Vice Mayor MchHugh practices what he preaches. He has played a key role in establishing and sponsoring a Palestinian Cultural Day in Santa Clara County when he was a Supervisor. He praised AMV Foundation’s efforts of fostering friendships among all Americans by bridging the cultural and religious gap. He stated that he had witnessed AMV standing with other communities for their issues. “You can build a beloved community by supporting other communities in their time of need.”
Samina Sundas, founding Executive Director of the AMV, spoke on “Creating a Village where Everyone Matters.” She said: “I am inspired by this verse from Surah Al-Hujurat Qur'an 49:13. O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that ye may get to know each other (not that ye may despise each other).”
She went on to say: “Let us make a pledge that we will build that village together where we won’t simply tolerate one another, but totally accept each other. Better still, we would cherish each other as a special gift from God. God made this beautiful world for all of us and I often wonder what the world would look like if human beings followed God’s command fully.”
Parallel panel discussions
Another feature of the AMV Peace Convention was four parallel panel discussions titled: (1) Building trust through multi-faith values; (2) Demystifying the meaning of Jihad; (3) Debunking the myths about Muslim women and (4) Interrupting prejudice. People showed great interest in the forums and they were well attended.
Panelists for “building trust through multi-faith values” panel were: Imam Tahir Anwar, Michael Yoshii, Rev. Phil Lawson, Craig Wiesner and Dianne Muller. Saeed Malik was moderator.
This panel was aimed at articulating strategies to bridge gaps between major theologies by focusing on common threads shared by all faiths. The general premise we have found through experience is that regardless of race, religion, culture, or ethnicity, there are far more things that we share in common with one another than there are things that divide us.
Panelists for “Demystifying the meaning of Jihad” were: Imam Faheem Shuaibe, Imam Al Bakri, Wajahat Ali, Sara Jaka and Cem Yesilyurt. Moderator was Shafath Syed.
This panel aimed at addressing the common misnomers about the term Jihad, its origin, and its meaning. History is replete with examples of theology taken out of context and used subversively for political agenda, much in the same way that the word ‘Jihad’ has been misappropriated by fear mongers with an altogether different definition than the one we are familiar with. AMV’s goal was to educate the Convention attendees on the true meaning of ‘Jihad’ and to highlight the stark differences in context from religious text to politically charged media sensation.
Panelists for “Debunking the myths about Muslim women” were: Bhawana Kamil, Banafsheh Akhlaghi, Reshma Inamdar and Ahsan Syed. Moderator was Rabea Chaudhry.
The panelists aimed at addressing the stark contrast between Western impressions of Muslim women and the reality of their status as prescribed by religious text. Sensational reporting from biased media has successfully associated Muslim women with a deferential status to men, even going as far as to disrespect our sisters with the notion that they are oppressed by their faith. This panel serves as an opportunity to set the record straight about women of Islam and the great respect they rightfully command through their faith.
Facilitators for “Interrupting prejudice” workshop were: Delorme McKee-Stovall, Bruce Bramlett, and Dawan Muhammad.
This workshop addressed common prejudicial challenges most people face but are unequipped to resolve. The attendees learnt how to initiate a dialogue that communicates their concern about bias motivated stereotyping, labeling and scapegoating that is often communicated in jokes, comments, mis-characterizations, gestures and acts of violence.
This workshop has been offered to thousands of Santa Clara County residents and boasts time-tested techniques that promote change in biased and hateful behavior while maintaining relationships that mean so much to us. American Muslims are hardly the first group to be targeted by prejudice, though perhaps the latest with the announcement of the TSA resuming ethnic profiling at our major airports.
AMV Foundation’s 2010 Community Service Awards
Another feature of the program was recognition of community members for their dedicated service and efforts to create peace and harmony in the world.
Banafsheh Akhlaghi was the recipient of the Fred Korematsu Civil Rights Award. Fred’s 89-year-old wife Kathryn Korematsu presented the award.
KPFA received 2010 Peter Jennings Unbiased Media Award.
Cesar Chavez Social Justice Award was given to Campaign For Justice: Redress Now For Japanese Latin Americans.
Virtuous Public Official Award - for a public official who is representative of all his constituents, not just for selected groups – was given to Pete McHugh, Vice Mayor of Milpitas.
Badshah Khan Peace Award was given to Carolyn Scarr, program director of the Ecumenical Peace Institute.
Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice received the Marla Ruzicka Humanitarian Award. Marla’s parents Nancy and Clif Ruzicka specially came to present the award that has been instituted in their daughter’s honor.
Martin Luther King Jr. Beloved Community Building Award was given to Latino Community Council of Woodland for building an inclusive and beloved community.
AMV’s Spirit of Islam Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Mr. Syed Inamdar and Mrs. Razia Inamdar for their community service.
The main program began with an Abrahamic prayer offered by Nabeel Asif (Muslim), Neil Penn (Jewish) and Rev. Eileen Altman (Christian). Syed Zafar Mohsin, President AMV Northern California and Yasmin Vanya, Board Member, welcomed the guests on behalf of the AMV Foundation. Rima Chaudhry was the master of ceremony for the evening.
The evening ended with a performance by Steve Bhaerman, an internationally known author, humorist, and workshop leader, popularly known as Swami Beyondanda, political guru and un-communicator. It was the perfect ending with humor, food for thoughts and message to do good and create goodwill in the world. AMV Foundation’s National President, Khalid Saeed concluded the evening by thanking the guests for being a part of AMV Foundation’s 2010 Peace Convention.