Ramadan at the California State Capitol
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Sacramento, CA: The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) held its Ninth Ramadan Iftar (breaking of the fast) at the California State Capitol building on Wednesday August 8th to celebrate what can also be described as the Muslim inclusion into California’s cultural fabric. Along with other faiths Islam too has established its imprint here in the Golden State, and the fact that California legislators from both the State Assembly and the Senate joined in issuing laudatory resolutions on our community and its civil rights organization and were physically present to break the Ramadan fast with us, once again became a testament of America’s diversity and California’s cultural mosaic.
Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Members Mariko Yamada (Yolo County) and Roger Dickinson from Sacramento, amongst others, were warmly welcomed as they took the opportunity to address approximately 200 dignitaries and community members present.
Senator Steinberg while addressing the group started off on a humorous note on why Assembly Member Dickinson was getting more name visibility than he was. But continuing on he said that the resolution presented here was a small token of the state’s appreciation of the American Muslim community in our state. He said that in this building we argue and disagree about a lot of things. But there is one thing that binds us amongst all other things, and that is our fervent belief and commitment to California being a place of inclusion, a place of peace, a place not just of tolerance but acceptance and a place of celebration. And that is what this celebration, this Iftar, our coming together here meant to him, said Steinberg.
Assembly Member Yamada started by greeting everyone with the Muslim “As-Salam-Alaikum”. She said that she was happy to join everyone here again, this time for the Ninth Annual Capitol Iftar. She highlighted the efforts of Congresswoman Judy Chu who initiated this event in partnership with a few others after 9/11 right here in the Capitol. She said that here we recognize our constitutional right to free assembly and to practice of our religion. She was also appreciative of people who keep us safe. She added that it was her pleasure to join us again this evening and “What’s not to like about Iftar?” She said that she did fast herself today (her fourth time) and that it was somewhat getting easier for her.
Assembly Member Roger Dickinson spoke next. Roger has had Muslim members in his office staff in the past and that trend continues till today. He said that one of the joys for him while serving in the state assembly and representing Sacramento is to welcome the people of California to their house. Echoing Senator Steinberg’s view on disagreeing on issues in this building, he added that this place belongs to all Californians. He said that to him that’s what makes it most appropriate to celebrate Iftar here tonight, to celebrate and recognize Ramadan at the Capitol.
Amongst the other speakers that evening Betty Yee from the State Board of Equalization also addressed the event. CAIR California Board Chair Masoud Nassimi also addressed the gathering. But what was different this year was local chapter Executive Director Basim Elkarra opening his remarks with a call for a few seconds of silence for the shooting victims at a Sikh Gurdwara or place of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. No matter what the perpetrator of this crime had in mind, the brown skin of South Asians, and especially those with a turban on their heads (which Sikhs wear), has made them a target of hate crimes in post-9/11 America. Two elderly Sikhs were gunned down in the Sacramento region (in Elk Grove, 2011) in a yet unsolved case where such a crime cannot be ruled out. The fact that they may have been mistaken for Muslims just cannot be ignored either.
In conclusion, America’s diversity was celebrated at the California State Capitol building once again with an Iftar celebration during the Islamic month of Ramadan, which included the sharing of a fine Mediterranean meal. Present at this event were Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of many other faiths. Our strength in diversity was very much evident at this venue as the Muslim call to prayer or Adhan (or Azaan in Urdu) was heard and prayers offered.
Nobody can argue that America has not changed since 9/11/2001. But ours is a strong country. The people who carried out those attacks wanted to create divisions amongst us. They targeted buildings and people in this country and succeeded. But in targeting the American spirit thankfully they have failed. The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan is just around the corner (possibly on Sunday), so an early “Eid Mubarak” greeting to all of our readers from Sacramento, California.
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