American Muslim Voice Joins the Fight against Homelessness and Hunger
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The American Muslim Voice Foundation (AMV) is an organization which continues to expand its quest to get Muslims in the United States to observe their true beliefs and it promotes full participation in addressing common social concerns, and to practice basic human kindness in American society. When AMV sees its fellow Americans suffering or in need of help it steps forward. The goal here is not to remain separated from the mainstream but to join in wholeheartedly in this country, because we are all in this together. In post-9/11 America, “From Fear To Friendship” has been the AMV motto.
This writer has seen AMV in action at various events helping those in need, regardless of their religion, especially around the Christmas season. So it was no surprise that it held not one but three events in the greater Sacramento, California region, starting with an effort to spread awareness and show concern for the area homeless and hungry (yes this certainly is a grim reality in the world’s richest and most powerful country) on December 1st as they joined hands with the Mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg who has this issue in his crosshairs and is seriously attempting to do something about it. The second event was an AMV-hosted “Fear To Friendship Dinner” held at the Yolo County Office of Education (which this writer could unfortunately not attend) on December 9th in Woodland. And last but not least, AMV served 1,000 meals to the homeless and the needy on December 24th (Christmas Eve) at Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento.
The AMV-hosted “Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Event” which was held on Friday, December 1, 2017 at the local Lutheran Church of the Master was extremely well-attended. And why hold this event in a Church? Because they are excellent hosts (thanks Pastor Linda Boston and other church officials) and this also fits right in to the AMV effort to build bridges across cultures and religions. Plus, it is a really beautiful church which we all enjoyed visiting.
The event started with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an. Our very capable emcee for the evening was UshnaSattar and the first person invited to speak was Pastor Linda Boston, our facility host. Linda was followed by AMV Sacramento Chapter President Asif Sattar who offered his official words of welcome to the now almost full hall. Following Asif Sattar, the speakers were the Executive Director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness Bob Erlenbusch, Real Estate Developer Mo Mohanna, Interfaith President Jon Fish, AMV National President Khalid Saeed, California Assembly Member Ken Cooley, and AMV Executive Director SaminaSundas. After an introduction by RameeshaSattar, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg next delivered the keynote speech. And the final comments were made by AMV’s Ali Rana and a nice Pakistani dinner concluded the event. Space constraints limit the details of all speeches made here so we will only attempt to focus on the Mayor’s remarks for this report.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg is a long-time political figure in California’s Capital City. Serving in Sacramento both at the Capitol and City Hall for over 20 years now, Mayor Steinberg has picked many causes and battles during his many years of community service. One such cause which he has championed is the availability of mental healthcare which he has called “the under-attended issue in our time and in our society.” This issue dovetails right into the problem of homelessness in Sacramento and as Mayor he has been trying to make a serious attempt to address it. The Mayor emphasized that the office that he holds along with others he has held in the past were public trust positions and also opportunities. He said that what matters in the end is doing your job with integrity and most important of all, getting something done for people and their causes, even in small ways. He thanked a number of people present for the opportunity to help, including AMV officials and others, who have shown deep interest in the issue of homelessness locally. He said that he was touched to hear that the Muslim community of Sacramento will once again provide meals to the homeless on Christmas Eve. He added that this gesture by the Muslim-American community should not be underestimated (its importance) and shared his own experience as a Jewish-American growing up helping Christians celebrate Christmas by taking the burden off them during this holiday. Steinberg said that local Muslims are Americans who he is proud to represent too, and that the community is not obligated to do this (feeding the homeless) but when it does provide this service to people of the Christian faith, that to him is really impressive.
Mayor Steinberg said that homelessness is an issue which we all face collectively as one community. “It is not a Christian issue, it is not a Jewish issue and it is not a Muslim issue,” he said. It is not an issue just for the non-profit community or for those that engage in social services, it is not just a business issue, and it is not just a law enforcement issue. This issue in Sacramento is a “quality of life challenge” in our community. He added that we must address this in Sacramento because it not only affects our humanity but it also impacts our vision of building a modern cosmopolitan city and that it is impacting every part of our quality of life. First and foremost, it is a humanitarian issue, said the Mayor. He pointed out that a homeless person on the street today who may be exhibiting odd behavior is also someone’s child, someone’s parent or spouse, or someone who had (quote) a normal life before they got sick.
It is in this spirit that this report moves to the Sacramento AMV Chapter’s Christmas Eve effort to serve 1,000 meals to the homeless and needy at Loaves & Fishes on North C Street on December 24th. It would be an understatement to write that Sacramento has a homeless problem. A small “Tent City” is located within walking distance from the venue and it was good to note that some other groups too were outside on the street helping to spread some Christmas joy. But within Loaves & Fishes the second shift of Muslim volunteers greeted everyone coming inside with a “Merry Christmas” and a tray to fill up with a nice warm meal (the main course this year was Salisbury steak). As AMV Sacramento Chapter President Asif Sattar explained to a local television channel, this is a part of practicing our (Muslim) beliefs. A huge “Thank You” is in order to all the members of the local Muslim Community who donated or volunteered to cook this nutritious meal (they started at 6:00 AM) on Christmas Eve so that all who came through the door of any race, ethnicity or religion were well fed. This is truly our Islamic faith in action.