Interfaith Iftar in Sacramento Focuses on Spiritual Unity
 By Ras H. Siddiqui

The Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM) held its 13 th annual interfaith Iftar (breaking of the Ramadan fast) at its Community Center on Wednesday, July 24 th to the delight of over 300 people in attendance. What was especially encouraging for us was the fact that over 75% of those who had gathered there were not Muslims and that some of them were actually fasting to show their solidarity with the hosts! And speaking of hosts, right off the bat a note of thanks is due to Javed Siddiqui, Kais Menoufy, Metwalli and Rosalie Amer, Osama Hassoun, the Sharif Family and Brother Bassam for making this unique event possible.

The proceedings began when Sister Anne Kjemtrup invited Br. Mohamed Ali for the Qur’an recitation and Sister Omnia Joehar for its English translation. Next SALAM Board Chairman Farrukh Saeed bid everyone welcome and expressed his happiness at sharing Iftar with the diverse community of faiths present. He also explained what services SALAM had to offer to the local people, including the mainstream, e.g. those who wanted to learn more about Islam could attend a “Discover Islam” class. He also gave a brief description of Iftar and the month of Ramadan for the new guests in the gathering. He also recognized local dignitaries from state government, and public officials, including those from local law enforcement. He concluded his presentation by saying that no matter what our faiths, backgrounds and the colors of our skin, we all come from the same human race.

Next Basim Elkarra from local Sacramento CAIR Chapter shared his personal experience of Ramadan as a child growing up in Cairo, Egypt. He said that many people in Cairo don’t sleep at night during Ramadan giving kids the opportunity to be kids (playing hide and seek etc.) till the time of Suhoor (Sehri for South Asians) when many fine foods were consumed. He also described the festivities of Eid that end the holy month in such vivid detail that many of us may now want to visit Egypt ourselves. Next, Sister Rihana who described herself as half Pakistani and half Mexican, shared her own Ramadan experience when she lived in Amman, Jordan. “God’s love has no boundaries,” she said, as she described how strangers quickly became friends while sharing the spirit of Ramadan there.

SALAM’s Imam M.A. Azeez also addressed the gathering. “Your presence here honors us,” he said to all of the guests present. A relatively young Imam who has developed quite an area following, Imam Azeez retains his ability to impart words of wisdom using humor. One can understand that it can be difficult to use humor when you often have to attend to community funeral and burial rites, but this is indeed a gift. On this occasion Imam Azeez was in his usual form while he presented a riddle or what could be described as a “Four Wives Tale,” one which was appreciated by all present especially since many were accompanied by their one and only wife! But he ended on a serious note as he described the month of Ramadan as one which teaches us to care about everyone, including complete strangers, and offers us a great opportunity to attain spiritual power. 

Just before Iftar, the “SALAM Distinguished Award for Exceptional Community Service” was presented to Stephen Magagnini of the Sacramento Bee. Steve was introduced by Dr Metwalli Amer. Over the past decade, especially since 9/11, Steve Magagnini has been at the forefront of reporting on Muslims in the area in the Sacramento Bee. He has also probably written more articles on people of various nationalities and cultures in the Bee than anyone else we know. This writer has interacted with him on various occasions in the past on a variety of subjects. Unlike many “experts” we continually hear from in the media, Steve has actually visited Pakistan himself and has written about it in his esteemed newspaper. His focus is often on people who have immigrated to America and succeeded or made a difference here in spite of facing great adversity. His profiles of people from families who escaped genocide in Rwanda, fled on leaky boats from Vietnam and recently his concern for the situation in the Middle East (especially Egypt) all deserve careful reading and appreciation.

Steve humbly accepted the award from Dr Amer, Imam Azeez and Farrukh Saeed and shared his most recent passion, the life-work of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela in his fine acceptance speech. He also mentioned that The Sacramento Bee deserves full credit for giving him the space (and employment) to bring news from immigrants in what is possibly one of the most diverse cities in America.

The proceedings ended with a spirited interfaith prayer by Rev. Dr David Thompson and Father Michael Kiernan and the call to prayer or Azan by Adnan Syed which started the breaking of the fast. Prayers were followed by a fine Middle Eastern dinner.

(Due to the timing of the publication this article “Eid Mubarak” to and from Sacramento, California).


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