American Muslim Voice Peace Convention Draws Large Crowd
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

American Muslim Voice held its Annual Peace Convention on Sunday, Dec 11, 2011at the Chandni Restaurant in Fremont/Newark. The five-hour Convention attracted a crowd of around 400 people from near and far. The master of ceremony was Anser Hasan, a reporter from the CBS5 morning show.

AMV brought together Muslim scholars, featured speakers, panelists, award recipients and a diverse crowd of people in order to highlight the importance of community and peace building in America.

The program began with multi-faith prayers by Rabbi Elisheva Salamo (Jewish), Sister Margaret Hoffman (Christian) and Omar Raza (Muslim).

The theme of the convention was “Awakening the American Spirit: Turning the Tide of Hate into Love,” which reflected AMV’s commitment to replace the culture of hate, despair, division and violence with a culture of love, hope, inclusion and peace.

Rais Bhuiyan, a featured speaker perhaps symbolized the theme of the convention. A victim of post-9/11 shooting spree, Bhuiyan forgave and tried to spare the life of the man who shot him and left him for dead.  Bhuiyan shared his courageous story of compassion, love and forgiveness. A white supremacist shot Rais and two other South Asians. The other two innocent victims of hate died while Rais survived. He was blinded in one eye and still carries 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his face.

The other two featured speakers were Imam Zaid Shakir, co-founder of Zaytuna College and amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West, and Rev. Ellen Grace O’Brian, Spiritual Director of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose, a ministry in the tradition of Kriya Yoga. She also serves as Vice-Chair of the Parliament of the World's Religions.

Scholar’s forum: The convention was divided into two sessions. The first session comprised of two parallel events:  Conversation with Muslim Scholars and Civil Rights Panel Discussion. 

Conversation with Muslim Scholars focused on the negative propaganda against Islam and Muslim by mainstream media as well as by some politicians. The negative propaganda is coming in the shape of Anti-Sharia Law, violence, oppression of Muslim women and Jihad while the faith of about 1.5 billion Muslims is being labeled as a cult instead of a religion.

The panel provided an opportunity to the diverse audience to hear directly from esteemed Muslim scholars and learn the truth about Islam from the people who live it every day. Speakers for this session were Imam Zaid Shakir, Ameena Jandali, and Imam Abdul Azeez. Rabea Chaudhry was moderator of this panel while Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson delivered closing remarks.

Civil Rights Forum: The panelists for the Civil Rights Panel Discussion were Zahra Billoo, Executive Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) chapter; Patty Diaz, SIREN’s Exective Director; Asaad Traina, one of the Irvine 11 students, and their attorneys Jacqueline Goodman and Dan Mayfield.

It may be recalled that on September 23, 2011, a California jury found 10 Muslim students of UC Irvine guilty of disrupting the Israeli ambassador's university speech about US-Israel relations, a case that stoked a debate about free speech. Goodman has referred to the students as “heroes” who acted in the “tradition of the finest American political activists.”

The panelists discussed the USA Patriot Act, INS Special Registration, attacks on Muslim charities, anti-Islam FBI trainings, Rep. Peter King's alarmist and racist hearings, the Irvine 11 case, GPS tracking of Muslim men, Muslim women being fired for wearing a hijab, and the "Secure Communities Program.” Zainab Jeewanjee was the moderator for this panel and closing remarks were delivered by Rev. Michael Yoshii of Buena Vista United Methodist Church, Alameda, CA.

Award ceremony: Another feature of the AMV convention was the award ceremony to acknowledge and recognize the services of individuals and institutions for their distinguished work for the community.

For sharing Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of building a beloved community and walking on that path, AMV gave the MLK Jr Beloved Community Building Award to a well-know personality of Bay Area, Taj Noori. The award was presented by Reshma Inamdar of the Women Voters League.

Another well-know personality of Bay Area, Khurshid Chaudhri, was given the AMV Lifetime Award in recognition of her unquestionable service, inspiring those around them, and portraying the beautiful tenets of Islam. The Award was presented by Firdos Kamran, an AMV board member.

The Badshah Khan Peace Award was given to Rais Bhuiyan for unwavering faith in her nonviolent approach as a modern day peace seeker. Pattie Coretese presented this award.

The Marla Ruzicka Humanitarian Award for an extraordinary commitment to serving all humans regardless of race, religion, or creed, was given to the Islamic Circle of North America ( ICNA) Bay Area. Humanitarian aid worker Marla Ruzicka and her Iraqi driver died in Baghdad on April 18, 2005. Her mother Nancy Ruzicka presented the award.

The Fred Korematsu Civil Rights Award was given to Paul Fong, California State Assemblyman, for showing courage and commitment to protect civil liberties and constitutional rights despite the current political climate. Karen Korematsu, daughter, presented this award.

The Peter Jennings Unbiased Media Award for demonstrating uncompromising character and respect for journalistic integrity through their dedication to unbiased reporting, was given to ILLUME Magazine. Syed Zafar Mohsin, President AMV North California, presented the award.

The Cesar Chavez Social Justice Award for unrelenting pursuit of social justice and outstanding service was given to Teresa Castellanos. Pete Mc Hugh, Vice Mayor of Milpitas presented the award.

The Virtuous Public Official Award for years of dedicated service and opting to represent his entire constituency and not just selected groups was given to Dave Cortese, Santa Clara County Supervisor. CA State Assemblyman Jim Beall presented the award.

Muslim women leadership training: The AMV has launched a Muslim Women Leadership Training program to prepare the young generation to represent the community with crucial Muslim and American narrative. Michael James, consultant provided by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, introduced the first batch of young girls enrolled for the training that formally begins in January of 2012.

Earlier, Khalid Saeed, the AMV National President, presented an overview about the AMV achievements since its establishment eight years ago.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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