SALAM Fall Banquet a Resounding Success in Sacramento
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM) held its fall fundraising banquet event with a large gathering at the Citrus Heights Community Center on November 1 st targeting the removal of a $300,000 bank loan which is currently being paid with interest. The loan which was taken out to fund the now complete (and very beautiful) SALAM Mosque has been shrinking steadily from its original amount of over $1 million about five years ago and to this current stage. The challenge before the community was whether the Masjid would now be interest-free after this event.
The SALAM Muslim community is multi-ethnic and trans-sectarian and pretty much All-American. This was reflected in the gathering here as Asif Haq, the emcee for the evening and SALAM Board Member, called everyone’s attention by giving a short introduction of the schedule for the evening and then inviting Tulaib Zafir to the stage. Tulaib delivered an inspiring recitation from the Holy Qur’an which was followed by its English translation by Sister Muzhda Ferouz .
The official welcome was given by Dr Anne Kjemtrup, the Chairperson of the SALAM Board. It should come as no surprise that the SALAM has a female Chairperson because over the years this organization has been all-inclusive and some would even say “cutting edge”. Dr Kjemtrup officially welcomed everyone on behalf of the SALAM Management Team to this event. In her short speech she provided an overview of SALAM and enumerated what keeps her and others here and why newcomers may want to come and join the organization: Family (her son and daughter attend or have attended the school here), Social Activity (including a youth feeding the homeless event), Sunday School which has over 300 students (one of the oldest and longest running in the region), and The Sharif Family Community Library (coming online).“SALAM is our spiritual home,” she said. SALAM is where everyone is welcome.” She said that it is one of the most ethnically diverse Mosques in the area.
Next, two young men and a young lady from the community received scholarships generously set up by three local educators, the Professor Ayad Alqazzaz Scholarship and the Professor Metwalli and Rosalie Amer Scholarship. One can never underestimate the importance of assistance of this nature because it can make a real difference in the lives of young people attending college in our community. Many young people drop out of their studies due to financial stresses since their families are not able to fund their education. It is also interesting to note that the people who set up these scholarships are, or have been, college professors.
Another tradition that has continued at SALAM has been the recognition of members from within the local community for their unique contributions to SALAM and the community during the banquet. The SALAM Distinguished Award at this event was presented to Dr Amin and Sister Linda Elmallah, an honor which they humbly accepted. Congratulations to them once again.
SALAM’s Financial Position was detailed next at the podium by Waseem Bawa who in his effort paved the way for the fundraising segment. In five years the SALAM community has been able to bring down their interest-bearing debt from approximately one and a half million dollars to the current sum of $300,000. Interest-free loans provided by the community total over $800,000 and also need to be paid back someday. Over $400,000 in interest has been paid to the bank thus far and the target at this time is to make no more interest payments by paying off the $300,000 loan immediately and to make the Mosque interest-free.
The theme for this banquet evening was “Seeking Calm in Chaotic Times” and to address the topic and a lot more was Dr Altaf Husain, a man who wears many hats including being a board member at ISNA. Dr Husain demonstrated both humor and intellect in abundance and not only did he deliver the keynote but also very ably conducted the fundraising, all the while making the audience laugh. Now that is something rare; people parting with their money and laughing about it! Needless to say, Dr Altaf Husain was very effective in his appeal as just over $200,000 in checks and pledges were collected at this event.
After dinner, more laughter followed as Mohammed “Mo” Amer brought his comedy act to the stage. In this, one of his many appearances in the Sacramento area over the years, he was as funny as ever. From his Palestinian roots, the use of olive oil to cure everything, from being stateless to becoming a US Citizen, facing bigotry, not looking “like an Arab” and other topics, all were fair game in his presentation.
In conclusion, the event was a resounding success with over 2/3 rd of the interest-bearing loan amount funded which can now be paid off.