SALAM Fall Banquet Focuses on Building Bridges
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims or SALAM ( http://www.salamcenter.org/ ) is one of the premier Islamic centers in California’s Capital City.
Located across the street from American River College, its beautiful Mosque now stands out as a Moorish architectural anomaly on College Oak Drive and it is really inspiring to look at, making it hard to imagine that it all started off with just a trailer where families used to come and pray.
Today, SALAM focuses on being a truly American Mosque and the Stars and Stripes are often seen flying at its facilities. And over the years it has not been a bystander in Sacramento’s social scene as it has openly invited non-Muslims and interacted with people of all faiths to expand the understanding of Islam with anyone who might want to know more about it. In other words, it has focused on building bridges and has continued this effort. So it was not surprising that when it held its Fall Banquet Fundraiser on October 24 th, the theme was “Building Bridges -Crisis to Engagement”.
The Citrus Heights Community Center was almost full and reflected the diversity of the SALAM congregation and support group as event emcee and Fundraising Committee Chair Asif Haq called everyone’s attention. Haq also explained the theme for the day and elaborated on the agenda for the evening before inviting Tulaib Zafir to start the formalities with a recitation of the Holy Qur’an and an English translation of the verses.
Next SALAM Board Chairperson Dr Anne Kjemtrup officially welcomed everyone on behalf of the organization. She started off asking for a round of applause for Brother Asif Haq for all the work that he had done on behalf of the organization over the years. Dr Anne said that she was delighted to welcome everyone to the fall banquet. She also asked all the Board Members, Chairs of Committees and the SALAM Management teams to stand up and be acknowledged. She elaborated on SALAM’s mission to build a modern Islamic identity in a family-oriented environment. She also mentioned the important strides that the organization has made in decreasing its debt, its Ramadan Program, Family Picnic and its highly successful Sunday School along with its professional management and continual outreach program. She asked the audience to think about any way that they too could be a part of this effort. ‘Your donations keep us going and your participation motivates us,’ she said.
The SALAM Distinguished Award presentation was next. This time the recipients were the husband and wife team of Tariq and Sowaiba Munir who graciously accepted it. Tariq Munir is a very successful local businessman who runs a number of food businesses, including several local IHOP Restaurants, amongst others. In his humble acceptance speech he thanked SALAM for being a part of our lives and for providing Islamic education to their three daughters, two of whom have moved on and one is still attending.
SALAM Scholarships announcements followed and were presented to area youth by Dr Ayad Al Qazzaz, professor at Sacramento State University who along with Dr Metwalli Amer has continued to assist area youth for the past four years. Dr Qazzaz reminded us that to date 12 scholarships have been awarded so far and that we don’t have to be famous and rich (not rich and famous) to help our youth with their studies. Three area youth were presented scholarships of $1000 each to help pay for their education at American River College, UC Davis and Sacramento State University.
The keynote speech at this event was most interesting. It was delivered by a linguistic anthropologist, Dr Flagg Miller, Professor of Religious Studies at UC Davis who focuses on the culture of modern Muslim reform in the Middle East, especially Yemen which has been in the headlines recently. He is also the author of the recently published book “The Audacious Ascetic- What the Bin Laden Tapes Reveal About Al-Qa'ida”. He is an avid fan and follower of Arabic poetry, which he took the opportunity to recite here. Dr Miller’s work needs close attention, especially since he has had the opportunity to listen to and scrutinize close to 1500 tapes found in the house of someone who was once the world’s most wanted man. Interestingly, his dreaded organization which is now a household word globally is only mentioned in only one of these recordings according to Dr Miller.
A full SALAM Financial update was presented next by Waseem Bawa who highlighted the fact that although the organization has paid off its interest-bearing loan from the Mosque project, there is still an outstanding interest-free debt of approximately $850,000 owed to community members which still has to be paid back. And hence this fundraiser which was conducted this time by Dr Altaf Husain, who is well known in our community for his emphasis on social work and his excellent sense of humo,r which he uses to make sure that attendees at fundraisers part with their money and feel very happy about it! Seriously, it is always a pleasure to attend the fundraising events which he conducts.
After dinner, entertainment is where the evening ended as comedian Dean Obeidallah made sure that everyone went home happy! Of Palestinian-Italian (Sicilian) descent, Dean crossed over ethnic boundaries with ease. Just like art, humor too has no borders as his comedy at this event covered a delightfully large canvas. From “Hurricane Osama” to overly spicy Pakistani food, eating pigeons instead of chickens, expensive carpets, learning Spanish and how to “Dress White (to) Make a Flight”, Dean had everyone laughing their hijabs or caps off to bring SALAM’s Fall Banquet to a wonderful and joyous end.