Syed Rifat Mahmood, a Visionary Community Leader, Passes away
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
The San Francisco Bay Area community mourns the demise of Syed Rifat Mahmood who was a visionary and imaginative community leader, a warmhearted and affectionate friend, and a fearless and straightforward individual.
He was my friend since September 2000 when we met at the Islamic Society of East Bay (ISEB) mosque after the Friday prayers. I was a stranger to the community since I had come recently from Kuwait. I cannot forget his spirit of friendship when he came to me and introduced himself and asked about me. We were friends since then.
In December 2002, I moved to Modesto from Union City but we were always in contact. In 2008, we launched an online magazine, The Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net). He was the President of the Journal while I served as its Chief Editor.
Syed Rifat Mahmood passed away on August 3, 2016 after a long illness. He hasleft behind his wife Maryam and daughter Zahra to mourn his sad death besides his brothers and sisters. He was the eldest brother of Syed Nusrat, Syed Sarwat, Syed Niaz Ahmad, Syed Kamran and sisters Ghazala, Kishwer, Qaisar, and Raheel.
Syed Rifat Mahmood was a public figure. He was a nominee for the US Congress as a Republican candidate in 2002. He was also a Republican nominee for the California State Assembly in 2000. Syed was elected to the Central Committee of the Alameda County Republican Party for a two-year term. He was also nominated for the California State Republican Party's Central Committee for two terms. He worked for the Reagan and Bush presidential campaigns and served as one of the co-chairs for Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren.
As the founder of The American Institute of International Studies, Syed Mahmood worked to motivate Americans of all backgrounds to participate in the mainstream of the American political process. His efforts resulted in his appointment to several community committees by the Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco. He was appointed to the Reception Committee of Pope John Paul II by the Catholic Archbishop.
He was President of the United Muslim of America (UMA), a Muslim civil advocacy group.
The Islamic Society of East Bay (ISEB)
Most importantly, Syed Riffat Mahmood was a founding member of the Islamic Society of East Bay (ISEB) which he aspired to see as a top class Islamic institution.
I am afraid to say that although he was facing health issues for some time, but unfair lawsuits against him may be a contributing factor to his deteriorating health in recent months. My friends told me that whenever they went to see him in hospital he was always asking them about the court cases. The community may know that Br Mahmood was facing an unfair court case regarding the ISEB even when he was on the death bed.
It is a sad reality that some of our community members who undeservedly aspire to become leaders implicated Syed Rifat Mahmood in lawsuits when he was trying to clean the unfair, un-ethical and non-transparent system to run the ISEB affairs. He was a founder member of the ISEB. He had a vision to make the ISEB Mosque an educational institute. In the January 2016 issue of Al Mashriq he wrote:
“ It was the dream of the Bay Area community to build this Islamic Institution and follow the model of Masjid-e-Nabvi in the Middle of the San Francisco Area. It was never meant to be just a local neighborhood Masjid. People from all over the Bay Area donated very generously, with great pride they waited for years to fulfill their dream to see an Islamic Center. Every year fundraising dinners were attended by Muslims from Frezno, Sacramento, Stockton and even the Los Angeles area. Major funding for this Masjid came from the outside of East Bay Area.”
He used to call it the Al Masjid UL Jame' and lamented that Allah has given us an opportunity but somehow this masjid was turned to “Lowry Masjid.”
Syed Rifat Mahmood as a writer
Syed Rifat Mahmood was also a creative and prolific writer. He is the author of The American Revolution as Affected by the Muslim World - Economically and Politically - A Historical Assessment, According to a reviewer:
"The American Revolution as Affected by the Muslim World is a fascinating read. Syed Mahmood explores in great depth many major events in American history, chronicling his narrative to interweave Islamic influences. Given the nature of the past decade's political climate, Islam is rarely depicted as having a place in American history, let alone playing a major political and philosophical role in shaping what America is. It's refreshing to find a read that is not afraid to delve into the topic…”