Muslim Day at The California State Capitol
By Ras H. Siddiqui

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held its 2nd Annual Muslim Day at the Capitol in Sacramento on April 30 th during which over a hundred representatives from all over California took the opportunity to interact with the California State Government.  Although it was windy under the CAIR tent outside on the Capitol grounds, it was another beautiful spring day in California’s capital city. A walk near the World Peace Rose Garden at State Capitol Park was warranted which somewhat delayed this scribe’s arrival to the formal event opening. If one is ever in Sacramento in spring or summer, a viewing and taking in the aroma of the roses (over 670 roses in more than 165 varieties of colors and fragrances) at this garden is highly recommended (please visit http://www.worldpeacerosegardens.org/ for details).  

The day also proved that this is a place which is beautiful both inside and out. Although our main topics of interest targeted by CAIR for the day were 1) AB4 TRUST Act and 2) AB 241 CA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights plus 3) Free Speech Rights on College Campuses, the handful of the 110 meetings held during the day which I could attend demonstrated a sensitivity amongst our State Senate and Assembly on these and other topics of interest for not just Muslims but all Californians.  For those who may not be aware, AB4 deals with the issue of local law enforcement sharing information with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the S-Comm program.  CAIR seeks to limit costly detentions of aspiring citizens in local jails for deportation purposes and it only supports its use for serious crimes.  AB-241 deals with the issue of housekeepers, nannies and caregivers in private homes so that their rights too can be protected including overtime pay, meal and rest break, etc.   The third quest for the day is not an Assembly Bill yet but a push for one. Students at California college campuses need the right of free speech especially on issues such as human rights abuses by foreign governments. CAIR supports a Free Speech Resolution on College campuses that remains faithful to the First Amendment and is asking for support for such a resolution from California Legislators. It also calls for a rethink on HR 35 because of its possible negative impact.

Now back to Muslim Day. After a formal opening, the attendees were split up into teams/groups based on their residence address and areas of interest. This writer was assigned to Team H, with a first meeting scheduled with Muffadal Ezzy representing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a meeting that I could not reach on time (the Capitol takes a little getting used to for the once a year rookie). My second meeting was with Betsy Hodges at the offices of Senator Ted Gaines who represents my own residential district. It was a learning experience because we rarely get to interact with either our representatives or their staffers unless we really need to. My last scheduled interaction was with Amin Nojan, Assembly Fellow at Assemblymember Bill Quirk’s office. Bill represents California’s 20 th Assembly District (Hayward and adjacent areas) where Muslims and South Asians (Afghans, Indians and Pakistanis) are becoming quite a voting force due to their increasing numbers. 

As a media representative I accompanied two other teams during their visits to the offices of Assemblymember Roger Dickinson and Senator Jim Beall respectively.  Roger represents California’s 7 th Assembly District which includes Sacramento. He has been a good friend of all minority communities, including local Muslims and Punjabi-Americans.  He listened to the team and responded to all the points raised by CAIR’s Basim Elkarra while looking for common ground.

Senator Jim Beall from the Fifteenth Senate District is now a Silicon Valley (San Jose area) political veteran who has been a member of the City Council, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, State Assembly and now the California Senate. Amongst his many areas of focus his continuing strong support for children with disabilities has been commendable. Jim also supports responsible free speech and is a good listener. Some in our community have known him since his San Jose City Council days when he became its youngest elected member at the age of 28. He has been widely supported by the South-Asian and Muslim community in his district for many years now and embodies the good old American value of fairness for those in need.  

Afternoon prayers were followed by a late lunch and other activities conducted by Adel Syed. The wind kicked up a notch, but the political engagement continued just as vigorously as Assemblymembers Mariko Yamada, Paul Fong and Cristina Garcia addressed the gathering just before the event officially came to a close. Support from the Asian and Latino members of our political leadership has been both inspirational and essential for our community. This was certainly reflected during Ms Yamada’s speech which included the hope that one of us at this gathering will one day become an elected member working inside the Capitol. CAIR’s Hussam Ayloush offered his own words of appreciation during his concluding remarks. 

In closing it was a great day for both California and the “experience” called America, one which triumphs over an atrocity like Boston approximately two weeks earlier by continuing to promote peace and inclusion.          

(Dedicated to the memory of the late James Beall Sr. (1923-2011) of the 82 nd Airborne, and the kindness of his family)


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