ICNA’s WhyIslam Sacramento Chapter HoldsFundraiser
By Ras H. Siddiqui

The WhyIslam effort in Sacramento, California, held its third Annual Fundraiser at the Holiday Inn Express in Elk Grove on Saturday, June 9 th attracting a broad spectrum of Muslims who seriously want to spread the true message of Islam into America’s mainstream community. This project is a part of an ongoing movement started by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).

This year the theme for this Sacramento event was “Defending Religious Freedom Understanding Shariah” which highlighted the topic which has quite erroneously become a hot topic in the United States where 23 states now have some kind of legislation or law that would ban the “threat” of Shariah (Islamic Law).

The event started off with a fine dinner or what could also be described as a social hour. The formalities were emceed by local WhyIslam volunteer Arshad Khan. The program started off with the customary Islamic invocation with its English translation. Arshad returned to introduce the Executives and the volunteers involved in WhyIslam Sacramento and the valuable work that this organization has been doing in the region. “Dawah is not an obligation. It is a requirement,” said Arshad.  He said that the goal here was to have a comprehensive approach to spreading the message of Islam to the general public and for that technology is being used through websites (http://www.whyislam.org/),  infomercials, billboards and brochures and the handing out of copies of the Holy Qur’an by the chapters of WhyIslam in the country. Locally, the 19-day annual effort at the California State Fair has had a big impact. The WhyIslam 24-hour hotline is also a major attraction for non-Muslims who just want to know more about Islam.  “We are Masjid neutral,” said Khan adding that this efforts seek to work with all mosques in the region.

A young man next recited a moving poem in English titled “Dawah the Spoken Word” in which he highlighted the issues of caring for the entire community one lives in and protecting it from harm and to help guide people who have been led astray by showing them the path of truth.

The keynote speech was delivered by Imam Tahir Anwar from the San Jose area’s South Bay Islamic Association (SBIA).  Always a source of inspiration, the relatively young Imam explained what Shariah laws really are and not as they are currently being projected as in this country. Giving a short background of the Muslim immigrant community in this country, he explained that most of us came here for the opportunities provided in a country where our talents were better appreciated. Religion was not a prime motivation then. Individuals who were not Muslims were also curious and some were attracted to Islam. Immigrant Muslims were working hard and raising families without much difficulty here in the United States: “Then 9/11 hit us,” said Imam Tahir. He added that people attending this event are amongst those who know and care about the fact that things have changed for us now.

After 9/11 Imam Tahir described himself as a minor league ball player who was quickly thrown into the major leagues. He said that during the course of the years following that tragic episode we all learnt to cope. He said that the sad reality is that even after more than 10 years since 9/11 there are people out there (hate mongers) who are spending tens of millions of dollars of their own money with the sole purpose of trying to make us (Muslims) look bad. He said that these people are taking a very small part of Islamic Laws or Shariah and strictly focusing on the punishment such as cutting hands of offenders. He added that people are saying that this is what we Muslims want to impose in the United States which is far from the truth. He said that the average American has started to believe that Shariah is what Fox News is telling him what it is!

Imam Tahir described Islam as a complete Deen or way of life in which we submit to Allah in everything that we do. Smiling at someone and showing politeness is also Shariah, he said. A business contract is also Shariah. He said that parts of the Shariah can solve many problems. The current economic difficulties that our country faces could be addressed through it, and facts such as a disappearing middle class paying more (percentage) of income in taxes than the rich is just one issue. Everything we do in life is Shariah. Just concentrating on a few aspects of Hudood Laws (Penalties) is not the full picture. If a crime happens, there is punishment to deter it. He said that it has been reported that California can spend up to $200,000 a year on a person in jail but only $8000 on a kid in school. There is something wrong with this picture. He added that we do not want to impose Shariah. We do not want to chop off the hands of people in the United States.  And we do not want people looking at us with suspicion either. Our cousins, the Orthodox Jews too also sometimes pray in public like Muslims.  Unfortunately few (in the media here) want to talk about Muslims cooperating. “This is why WhyIslam is important,” he said. Muslims need to become their own best ambassadors by being caring, law abiding individuals who show their neighbors, coworkers and other people that they meet every day (e.g. at Orchard Supply or Costco) that they are good people. People who don’t know us will remain suspicious. We need to get our message out through efforts like WhyIslam.

An ICNA video on WhyIslam was presented next, just before Shaykh Abdulhakim Mohamed started the fundraiser in his usual style before Magreb prayers. Some Nasheeds/entertainment closed the event.

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