August Declared Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month in California
ByRas H. Siddiqui
Sacramento: California has stayed ahead of many states in the past as it has celebrated “Muslim Day” at the State Capitol before. But now August in its entirety has been declared “Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month” as was witnessed by many in the area community here on 08.01/2016 when House Resolution No. 59 was unanimously adopted.
It all started on June 30 th when the resolution was introduced. It went through a committee where 10 members voted “Yes” before it was read and adopted on August 1. And for that many people in the California “salad bowl” or “melting pot” deserve both our thanks and recognition for making it all happen. In this particular case a Pakistani menu with fine biryani and korma plus kheer and a cake afterwards certainly broke the ice at the start of the launching ceremony at the offices of our host.
And our host and the man who introduced the resolution with over 60 other Coauthors was none other than Assembly Member Bill Quirk. House Resolution 59 is now a part of the history books and a welcome addition to the pluralistic narrative of our Golden State. Part of the resolution reads:
“WHEREAS, Freedom of religion holds distinction as a cherished right and a foundational value upon which the laws and ethics of the United States are based; and
WHEREAS, Enriched by the unparalleled diversity of its residents, the State of California takes great pride in supporting individual religious freedoms and is strengthened by the many varied religious, political, and cultural traditions of its diverse population, including those Americans who practice Islam; and
WHEREAS, The history of Islam in this country dates back to before its founding, originating with African slaves who brought their Muslim beliefs with them to the Americas and who later contributed in numerous ways to the founding of the nation, and there are today millions of Muslim Americans, both immigrant and native-born, of diverse backgrounds and beliefs; and
WHEREAS, The United States benefits greatly from the expertise, patriotism, and humanitarianism of Muslim Americans, who represent 10 percent of America’s physicians, helping to heal hundreds of thousands of Americans each year; who have long distinguished themselves as courageous and dedicated members of the United States Armed Forces, fighting and sacrificing in every major war from the American Revolutionary War to present-day conflicts; and who regularly contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, giving food to the hungry, sheltering the needy, and providing inexpensive or free health services, among other community services; and
WHEREAS, The earliest Muslim immigrants to California mostly worked on farms and made significant contributions to early agricultural efforts, and since the abolition of the national quota on immigration in 1965 by the passage of the Hart-Celler Act, more and more Muslims have migrated to California, with approximately one million Muslim Americans currently residing in communities throughout the state, the highest number in the United States; and
WHEREAS, Similarly, there are currently more than 240 mosques in California, more than any other state in the nation, and the people of California and the greater United States benefit from the several large Muslim religious, educational, charitable, advocacy, and empowerment organizations that operate within the state, as well as from the countless prominent Muslim community leaders who distinguish themselves professionally as business owners, law professionals, doctors, engineers, teachers, and farmers, among numerous other valued professions; and
WHEREAS, Although the majority of Muslim Americans within California and throughout the nation strive to promote peace and understanding between all faiths, identities, and nationalities while upholding those values and principles that define the American people, they have nonetheless been forced to endure harassment, assault, and discrimination since the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and during the year 2015 alone, there were approximately 174 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence and vandalism in the United States. It is therefore appropriate to acknowledge and promote awareness of the myriad invaluable contributions of Muslim Americans in California and across the country, and extend to them the respect and camaraderie every American deserves; now, therefore, be it.”
Alongside the commendable efforts of Assembly Members led by Bill Quirk, instrumental in gathering support for this historic move was a great deal of work by many people. Leading by example here were Moina Shaiq whose “Meet a Muslim” effort has been spreading respect and understanding between Muslims and the mainstream community in the Bay area for quite some time now. And then there is always CAIR upholding civil rights wherever they may be threatened. In this particular case, CAIR-California was represented by some of its local leaders including Executive Directors Zahra Billoo and Basim Elkarra. Leaders of various other groups also added to the diversity represented including sitting members of the California legislature plus some candidates in the upcoming November elections (we spotted Mariko Yamada running for State Senate amongst the attendees).
With all the rhetoric leading up to the upcoming Presidential Elections in November, it is nice to witness a positive move such as this one. What HR 59 contains is language that can apply to just about every group which has contributed and continues to contribute positively to the success of the great state of California.
For Muslim-Americans whose patriotism has been questioned because of the violent acts of a small minority, this resolution offers a strong message: Islamophobia is counterproductive and Muslims should keep contributing to make our state and country better because they belong here!