SALAM Spring Banquet and Fundraiser with Dr John Esposito
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Sacramento Area League
of Associated Muslims
(SALAM) held its Annual
Spring Banquet and Fundraiser
at the Citrus Heights Community
Center on Saturday, May 9th
focusing on the topic of “A Day for Geopolitics & Spirituality”. SALAM remains one of the premier centers of excellence in community service, outreach and education for Muslims in the greater Sacramento area. In almost 30 years of its existence it has pursued a moderate and progressive view of the Islamic faith. It currently has a full-time school and a wellestablished Islamic Sunday school which has catered to the needs of many of our area youth and is geared to meet the needs of the next generation. It has also built one of the most beautiful mosques in the region and is in the process of slowly paying off the costs. For that reason it holds two events a year and this was the first. The proceedings started off with event emcee and Chair of SALAM Fundraising Committee Asif Haq highlighting the evening’s schedule and informing us that Sue Frost, the Mayor of the City of Citrus Heights, was present along with her husband. He then invited Tulaib Zafir for the customary recitation from the Holy Qur’an along with its English translation to officially start the event. Asif also informed us that Keynote Speaker Dr Esposito’s flight had been delayed and that he would be arriving a bit later than planned. Next, he invited SALAM Board Chairperson Dr Anne Kjemtrup to address the gathering.
Dr Anne in her short speech delivered her official welcome on behalf of SALAM. She recognized and thanked the organizational Management Team for working tirelessly to fulfill SALAM’s mission to build an American Muslim identity. She also asked the members of the team to stand up and be recognized. She said that SALAM is a very special place, one which is moving into its next phase, to provide community services catering to the future. Besides the schools, up and coming programs such as involvement with the Girl Scouts will encourage our young girls to grow into tomorrow’s leaders. The library and spiritual programs including Friday Khutbahs which are posted on Facebook and several others need community participation and volunteers as well. Financial contributions to keep the lights on and to pay off the SALAM debt were welcome, she said. We will be educated and spiritually uplifted tonight, she added. SALAM is a one stop center towards building the American Muslim identity, she said. Dr John Esposito arrived and if he was tired it certainly did not seem to have any impact on his speaking abilities during his flawless keynote. For the readers who may not already know, Dr Esposito is currently Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He is also one of the leading spokesmen against Islamophobia in the United States and due to that fact he is frequently a target of Islamophobes himself. His speech was on Geopolitics but in his address he covered a lot of ground on the domestic front. He informed that he had been up since 2:00 AM our time so his energy level was lower than usual. He said that just a few decades ago Muslims were not a visible part of America. They were invisible in society, in our government, and in our media (i.e. no coverage). Religion in America then was Catholics, Protestants and Jews and it changed after the Iranian Revolution. Today Islam is visible all over the place. That is the good news. The bad news is Charlie Hebdo in Paris and more recently in Garland, Texas. He spoke of the efforts of people like Pamela Geller (of the Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), a hate group and the scene created in Garland (by the “First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest”). He added that people like her not only endanger people’s lives with their provocations but add costs for the taxpayers (security and other associated expenses). He said that this is part of the current reality of the American Muslim community. The fact is that when these things happen, they get media coverage, and that there is an uptick in hate crimes.
Dr Esposito also went into statistics revealing where American Muslims stand today
economically, in education and attitudes.
American Muslims are next
to American Jews in terms of education,
he said. They are professionals
of every variety and women amongst
them are quite educated too. American
Muslims do just as well as the
mainstream and some do better, he
said. He added that that Islam gets a
bad image in this country more than
Muslims do and that statistics show
that a small percentage of Muslims in
America engage in violence.
How do we respond? He spoke
about a project recently started
called “The Bridge” for protecting pluralism and ending Islamophobia. America’s cherished principles and values are pluralism and freedom of religion etc., he said. Islamophobia, just like anti-Semitism, compromises American values. He said that Islamophobia is being promoted by a well-funded effort and unfortunately there is little money to counter it. What is your job? You are a rising community, he said. The younger generation needs to think about what it is going to do as professionals. Don’t just become a doctor. He encouraged community members to become Lawyers and be involved in media and in government, starting at the local level. He observed that this was a critical time in American Muslim history.
The rest of the program included a presentation of SALAM’s financial status by Waseem Bawa, the formal fundraiser by Shaykh Monzer Taleb, Magrib prayers, dinner, an introduction to MAS Community Services by Gulshan Yusufzai (which provides counseling in 12 languages) and the presentation of the SALAM Distinguished Award to the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery (to Syed Khasimuddin and Imam Mumtaz Qasmi) by Dr Metwalli Amer. The event ended on a deeply religious note with a unique and enthusiastic presentation by Shaykha Muslema Purmul of the Safa Center as she sketched out the 12 steps to spirituality. And the good news is that approximately $130,000 was collected to reduce debt and to continue services at this event.