A High Profile Iftar at the California State Capitol as the Month of Ramadan Draws to an End
By Ras H. Siddiqui

Muslims in Sacramento, California ended Ramadan this year with a high profile Iftar (breaking of the fast) at the California State Capitol on August 6 th followed two days later by some colorful Eid celebrations to mark the end of the holy month. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) hosts “Capitol Iftar”, as it is known every year, this being the 10 th event of its kind at this venue.

This event was held a bit late during Ramadan this year because the state legislature had been in recess for a while and had just returned. On August 8 th Eid-Ul-Fitr prayers were held at various locations in the Sacramento area but the focus points this time remained the Downtown “V” Street Mosque and the large event held by the local SALAM organization at McClellan Park. 

First, the Capitol Iftar since it was quite an elaborate event: Sheikh Refaat began the proceedings by reciting from the Holy Qur’an with a translation in English by Mohamed Ali. From among the many dignitaries present on the occasion the head of the California State Senate Darrell Steinberg was the first to speak. A Jewish-American, Senator Steinberg reminded everyone that the event - now in its 10 th year - was significant. He wished everyone a “Happy Ramadan” and praised the accomplishments of pluralistic societies, where we can all gather together in a beautiful building like this one and send a message out to the world that there is a better way forward.

CAIR-Sacramento Valley President Wazhma Mojaddidi (yes a Muslim woman is the leader here) spoke next and welcomed everyone. “Today more than ever we need organizations like CAIR,” she said. She elaborated on this need to widen our scope of understanding and the necessity of protecting the rights of all. It is important to point out here that CAIR is at the forefront of protecting the civil rights of Muslims in America but its work benefits all Americans!

Dr Hatem Bazian, senior lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley, spoke on the recent studies on the 250,000 Muslims who live in the San Francisco Bay Area. He highlighted the great diversity which exists within this population (e.g. at least 77 different languages spoken). Dr Bazian also explained the additional concern about the poor which is created during Ramadan. Sarah Moussa, who spoke next, added how wonderful this experience of sharing Ramadan is and that she just had to celebrate her awareness of it.

Next, Assemblymembers Mariko Yamada and Roger Dickinson took the podium. They are both very popular within our community in the greater Sacramento area because of their practice of inclusive politics. “This building belongs to the people in the State of California,” said Dickinson. He also said that we need to ensure that California remains the Golden State. “This event represents the inclusion of all,” he added.

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada was fasting on this day and shared some of that experience with this writer. In her short speech she gave full credit to (then) Assemblymember Judy Chu for helping to start this Capitol Iftar tradition 10 years ago at a time not too far after 9/11. She said in added solidarity, “Today we are all Muslims.” She praised the efforts of all who have made such an environment possible in Sacramento and stressed the need to continue striving for the rights of all.

It is important to note here that the Japanese-American community has been immensely supportive of Muslims and their rights since 9/11, because they themselves are well aware of what it is like to have your rights taken away (World War II internment) because you are grouped with an undesirable group, no matter how patriotic an American you may be. Ms Yamada also reminded us that this Capitol Iftar was being held on the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Her message was very clear. Let us all actively strive for peace and understanding amongst all peoples and religions. The horrors of war, especially keeping Hiroshima and Nagasaki in mind, should remind us all of the need to pursue alternatives.

The list of speakers included Betty Yee, Paul Fong and others as a resolution marking this 10 th Capitol Iftar was presented to CAIR officials by members of the California Assembly and Senate. CAIR’s Basim Elkarra recognized and thanked quite a number of people (too many to be listed here) including members of the local interfaith community for their encouragement and participation. Imam Haazim Rashed closed the proceedings with a special Dua as the Azan (Prayer Call) for breaking of the fast followed soon after. A fine Mediterranean dinner ended the evening.

Eid in Sacramento was celebrated with fervor at several locations including the Downtown “V” Street Mosque where prayers were held in two shifts.  The Mosque, one of the oldest in the United States, was started by Muslims from South Asia in 1947. This venue was overflowing with worshippers where Imam  Qasmi lead the prayers. And in keeping with the fusion of cultures plenty of pizza and jalebi (dessert) was consumed afterwards.

The second event that attracted over 3000 people was at McClellan Park at the new Jackson Sports Academy. Prayers here were led by Imam Azeez of SALAM. One has to commend this organization for choosing the right venue for this gathering because not only was the facility the right size but it had enough parking space nearby to accommodate such a huge gathering. If a suggestion can be made, SALAM has hit upon the right idea and venue to hold a joint Eid Festival (after prayers) for the entire region here. Plenty of Halal food (from biryani to hot dogs) and family socializing opportunities were presented at this gathering.  “Eid Mubarak” greetings from Sacramento to all Pakistan Link readers!



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