Muslim Youth Leadership Program in Sacramento at the California Senate
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) held its four-day annual Muslim Youth Leadership Program (MYLP) at the California State Capitol from August 7-10 this year. The MYLP is a unique opportunity for high school students to get a “hands on feel” of how the government in our Golden State functions, and if future leaders are to emerge from within our Muslim youth this retreat provides them a starting window into how the media, law, and government shape public opinion and public policy.
This time around 45 Muslim students from across California received training here in many aspects of government functioning including a “mock legislature” session. They also received in-depth knowledge, participated in workshops, played leadership roles and engaged in public speaking.
This year’s MYLP was the 10 th that CAIR-CA has held at the State Capitol and from the way things look, there will be many more as there is both a need and now community support for this effort. It has now been recognized that American Muslims should get involved in local politics.Many Muslim families arrived here as immigrants and had often shunned politics in their quest to succeed in their new adopted land. But their American-born children are part and parcel of this state and country and are taking more interest in local and national politics in the United States. They are no longer looking at the “back home” politics of their immigrant parents as an area of interest.
It was not possible to cover all four days of this retreat in one report but I was able to be present at the closing of the “Committee Hearings” and part of the session identified as a “Mock Floor Session” at the California State Senate which convened at 3:30 PM on Saturday, August 9 th. Eleven Senate Bills (Post committee) were on the agenda for this session. President pro Tempore “Senator” Aria Akbar was at the head of floor assisted by “Senator” Khalid Abudawas, the designated Assistant President pro Tempore. After a mock “Roll Call” of the youth Senators,individual bills were introduced initially by two discussants and then opened up to the floor where any Senator who chose to speak expressed his or her views. Then the bill was put out for a vote of “Aye’s or Noes “(Yes-No) and the vote count was tallied. The results were announced after a vote count.
The Muslim youth present at this mock Senate session participated with enthusiasm as each bill was introduced and discussed. The session began tackling SB 1, an act relating to racial mascots which after some discussion passed with a vote of 41-4 on the Senate floor. It had been adopted earlier by an Education committee with a 9-6 vote. SB12 dealing with the topic of Public Campaign Finance had earlier passed 12-3 through the Elections Committee but failed on the Senate floor with a 10-26 vote. The all-important SB 10 on Pre-Voter registration passed with a 29-16 vote on the Senate floor after being adopted 12-3 earlier by the Elections Committee. SB 2 on Mortgage Translation failed by a vote of 18-27 after being adopted by a 9-3 vote by the Health and Safety Committee. And SB 5 addressing Universal Health Care which was adopted by the Health and Safety Committee 10-2 was overwhelmingly approved here on the Senate floor 40-5. And these were just some of the Senate Bills that the 45 Muslim Youth representatives tackled that afternoon.
As mentioned earlier, this report covered just a small segment of the activities that the MYLP focused on at the California State Capitol this year. Such events arranged by CAIR-CA have to be encouraged by the Muslim community throughout the state and country.
To be effective, one has to know the ways of how government works and CAIR is engaged in doing just that; teaching our young people how the system works. On this day the last names of Ahmed, Alsawaf, Din, Khan, Mubarak and Siddiqee (just to name a few) participated in a mock session at the California State Senate and pretended to be Senators. In future they may be elected to these offices and can participate in real sessions of the California Assembly and Senate if they are encouraged today.