Pakistan’s Independence Day Commemorated in the California State Assembly
By Ras H. Siddiqui
In a historic first, the Independence Day of Pakistan (celebrated on August 14 th) was heralded in the chambers of the California State Assembly Chambers on Monday, August 17, 2015 to the delight of invited guests of Pakistani heritage and Deputy Consul at the Consulate General of Pakistan, Los Angeles Mr Malik Qamar Abbas Khokhar .
Member Resolution 1626 Dated August 14 th was introduced by Assemblymember Kansen Chu (California’s 25 th District) in the Assembly on August 17 th, the first day of their return from summer recess, an understandably busy day for all legislators at the Capitol. After another historic first earlier this year when Pakistan Day (March 23 rd) was celebrated with a resolution in the California State Senate presented by Senator Tony Mendoza, the Pakistani-American community in our Golden State could not be happier.
In the California Assembly, the framed document was presented to the leaders of the American Muslim Voice Foundation, a group recognized in Northern California (and beyond) for not only developing better understanding between all faiths, between Islam and America, but going beyond that step like feeding the homeless on Christmas Eve right here in Sacramento. They have also been encouraging Muslims around our great county to get to know their neighbors with a simple people to people approach, by inviting them to their homes to share a meal. And lest we forget Americans of all religious and ethnic persuasions are receptive to honesty, good food, family and cultural interaction.
Proof of that American openness could be found right here where Taiwan-born Kansen Chu is elected to the California Assembly from an area around Silicon Valley where he meets a Pakistani-American Samina Sundas, the Executive Director and Founder of American Muslim Voice (AMV), whose social work and community activism inspires him to commemorate Pakistan’s Independence Day at the state Capitol. The credit for all of this goes not only Assemblymember Chu and officials of AMV but to America itself, for giving us all an opportunity to showcase our cultural and ethnic pride no matter where we come from!
The events for the day occurred in three parts. The introduction of Pakistan’s Independence Day and presentation of the Member Resolution to AMV officials present on the State Assembly Floor, a follow-up reception by the honorable Assemblymember in conjunction with AMV (samosas, cookies and other light snacks) and last but not least a large dinner gathering at the Citrus Heights Community Center, where a dinner reception was held for the wider community, which included many guests from the Bay Area and families from right here in Sacramento. Also present were some local officials and many leaders of the local Muslim groups including CAIR, SALAM, Downtown Mosque and from Woodland.
And against all norms dinner was served first (thank you Farrukh Hashmi Sahib). Sister Firdos who hails from across the border was in Pakistani green and white “camouflage” and she was event emcee. On the American Muslim Voice she elaborated that it was both the people and the idea that were inspiring and a vehicle for networking and promoting our voice.
Woodland Imam Aamir Hussain started the formalities with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an and its translation. The National Anthem of the United States was played first and led by a little girl from the Bay Area. And to follow up an enthusiastic group of community women sang Pakistan’s National Anthem on stage. Brother Asif Sattar, President of the AMV Chapter in Sacramento, next thanked all attending including heads of organizations and his wife and children for their continued support. He also introduced the AMV Sacramento Board members on stage.
In this writer’s humble opinion, the most inspiring delivery of the evening was by our community youth Representative Rameesha Asif Sattar who proceeded to counter all stereotypes about Pakistan and Pakistanis trending currently in the media. With a displayed backdrop of a picture of the Quaid-i-Azam, Rameesha shared the accomplishments of Pakistan’s founder, that of Pakistani women, and some of the leading personalities from Pakistan in the world of sports. She included Pakistan’s two Nobel Prize winners, its Oscar winners (if you include special effects) and many others who have made the country proud.
Khalid Saeed, National President of AMV Foundation, next in his speech described his journey in America, arriving as a proud Pakistani, becoming a Pakistani-American and a proud American Muslim. He described AMV’s main goal and the quest to contribute to the American “Salad Bowl” (as opposed to a melting pot!).
Assemblymember Kansen Chu thanked everyone for being here. He said that he had known Samina for more than 10 years and that he had been inspired by her. He said that as an immigrant himself, he was honored to have had the opportunity to commemorate Pakistan’s Independence Day in the California Assembly. He encouraged Pakistani-Americans to run for office and to participate in the political process. During his speech he shared how he himself started at the School Board level and progressed from there to where he is today. He also took the opportunity to hand out Certificates of Recognition to officials of AMV, to Consul Khokhar Sahib and a member of the media.
Consul Malik Qamar Abbas Khokhar next delivered a short speech during which he made three points. 1) He asked for a big hand for Assemblymember Kansen Chu for his efforts. 2) He thanked the American Muslim Voice Foundation for doing wonderful work for Pakistani, Muslim and Mainstream Americans and asked for a big hand for them and 3) He explained changes brought recently at the Consulate in Los Angeles for the added convenience of the community. Khokhar also presented tokens of official recognition to Assemblymember Chu (including a book on Pakistan) and AMV Executive Director Samina Sundas, who herself delivered the final speech of the day with a request for Muslims in America to be proud of who they are and to share their beautiful faith with fellow Americans. She also invited all to attend the American Muslim Voice Peace Convention to be held in Sacramento on September 12 th. Readers are invited to visit www.amuslimvoice.org for details.