Terrorism Has No Place in Islam or Pakistani Culture
By Zaki N. Syed
Leaders of the Pakistani-American community in Sacramento address the media
Sacramento , CA : Bashir Choudhry, President of Pakistani American Association of Sacramento, recalls the day when he heard of the 2010 New York City Times Square car bomb attempt. His initial feelings were those of relief, as the attempt had failed and no one was hurt. Those feelings quickly turned to those of anguish and worry.
“I remember hoping and praying, saying to myself, please don’t let it (the suspect) be a Muslim, please don’t let it be a Muslim,” said Choudhry. When the suspect, turned out to be of Pakistani descent, and claimed to be of Muslim faith, Choudhry was hurt, angry, and bewildered.
“Why did he do this, he put the Pakistani community in a big mess and lots of trouble,” said Choudhry. He wasn’t the only one with these feelings of turmoil and fury. With the constant negative stereotypes of Muslims and Pakistani Americans portrayed in the media coupled with the fact that a person was trying to commit acts of terrorism in the name of their religion, Muslims and Pakistani-Americans across the entire United States were enraged.
“I’m really appalled; this happening to us again and again,” said Tawfiq Alnassiri, a Muslim of Yemenese descent. Alnassiri said he was tired of criminals committing acts of violence in the name of his religion.
Leaders of the Pakistani-American community address a press conference in Sacramento
In an effort to demonstrate to the American public that terrorism has no place in Islam or the Pakistani culture, the Pakistani and Muslim American community of Sacramento held a press conference to strongly condemn the acts of the NYC car-bomb suspect, and reaffirm their commitment to join law enforcement in their efforts to fight terrorism and extremism.
The press conference was held on Friday, May 7, 2010 at V Street Mosque, located in downtown Sacramento. V Street is the second oldest Mosque in Sacramento, and was chosen as a location for the press conference, due to the large Pakistani-American congregation.
Local media outlets KCRA 3 and the Sacramento Bee attended the press conference.
Rashid Ahmad, Advisor of CAIR-SACVAL and master of ceremonies for the press conference, was the first to speak.
“Pakistani-Americans have been living here for over 100 years, we are businessman, lawyers, and doctors,” said Ahmad. “We run charities and food banks. Don’t paint our community in this bad light, because of a few bad apples.” Ahmad said he also plans on developing a Pakistani Studies program at the University of California, Davis, so that people could have a better understanding of Pakistani customs and culture.
Ahmad was followed by Pakistani American Association President Bashir Choudhry and Pakistani American Association member Camran Amin. Both expressed thankfulness that the car bomb attempt was unsuccessful, condemned the attacks, and showed willingness to help law enforcement to combat and apprehend terrorists.
President of V Street Mosque Sarfraz Anwar observed, “This is our country by choice, we love this country, Islam doesn’t condone this at all. We are a peaceful religion.”
Dr. David Thompson, President of Interfaith Service Bureau for Sacramento (ISB), pointed out that a Senegalese Muslim was actually the first to alert authorities about the bomb threat. Thompson said that Pakistani-Americans and Muslims are, and continue to be, solid citizens, and that just last week, the Muslim youth in Sacramento were raising money for the earthquake victims in Haiti. Thompson believes that the terrorists are corrupting and misconstruing the true meaning of Islam.
“It is not this radicalized way, this is not true Islam,” said Thompson, adding, “Pakistanis know this, the mosque knows this, and Muslims in this community know this.”
Vice President of ISB Durriya Syed also shared her thoughts, “We are all in this together and we will fight terrorism together,” said Syed, “This is our home, our youngsters were born here, they take a lot of pride in this country and all its good qualities.”
Basim Elkarra, Executive Director of CAIR-SACVAL, concluded the press conference by stating that Muslims and Pakistanis are, and will, continue to be patriotic to their homeland, the United States of America. Elkarra also said that CAIR and Muslim Americans will support and help all law enforcement efforts in the fight against terrorism, as long as no racial profiling is involved.
Muhammad Adenwala, a local Pakistani businessman, who showed up to demonstrate his support, was very pleased with the press conference. “This is the first step towards showing the American public we are peaceful, hardworking, and patriotic people,” said Adenwala. “These lone extremists don’t represent any of us. They don’t represent me, they don’t represent my family, my community or friends…we represent peace and love.”
Katrina Shokrikhanegah, an Iranian-American, who was present to show her support agreed with Adenwala. While Shokrikhanegah was pleased with this effort, she believes that the Pakistani and Muslim-American communities need to do more to educate the American public.
“We need to continue to show people what we represent by doing good in the community, helping the poor, giving to charity,” said Shokrikhanegah, “so when people look at us, they see that we are people of good character and morals.”
It is very inspiring to see the Pakistani and Muslim communities’ quick response to the bomb threat. The press conference was a good beginning; however, our responsibilities as Pakistani and Muslim Americans don’t end here. We need to educate our neighbors, reach out to our schools, campaign, and not rest until everyone knows that Pakistani- and Muslim-Americans are a peaceful and patriotic group of people.
We can no longer sit on the sidelines. When the terrorists attack using the name of our religion, they not only attack innocent people; they attack us. They are there and that is the reason that negative stereotypes regarding Pakistani- and Muslim-Americans are prevalent and continue to be prevalent. Every time the American community begins to think better of our community, a lone terrorist attempts to strike by using and abusing the name of our religion. It is time to fight back these terrorists by helping law enforcement and educating the community. We love the United States and Pakistan alike, and we will keep both cultures alive.