California State Capitol Iftar Reaffirms Support for Muslims
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Sacramento, CA: The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)-California Chapter held its 14th Annual Ramadan Iftar (breaking of the fast) reception at the California State Capitol on Tuesday, June 6, 2017.
The Eureka Room downstairs was packed to capacity as elected officials and executives of our Golden State took the opportunity to participate in this holy month by breaking bread with the Muslim community who ended their daylong avoidance of food and drink at sunset.
And in a world where conflict and terror grab the headlines daily, it can be said that the religious and ethnic diversity of California and its inclusiveness ruled that evening. The credit for that happening goes to the work done by CAIR and other individuals and organizations and many Californians who strongly believe in the American ideals of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Our event invitation said “The Council on American-Islamic Relations - California Chapter CAIR-CA), Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, Senator Richard Pan, MD, Senator Ricardo Lara, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, and Assemblymember Rob Bonta invite you to the 14th Annual Capitol Ramadan Iftar” and that “Ramadan is the Islamic holy month of self-discipline, charity, spiritual renewal, and sharing. Since 2004, CAIR, Members and staff of the California State Legislature, statewide Muslim American leaders, and interfaith and community leaders have been breaking bread and celebrating this most important Islamic cultural event.”
With the attendance of large number of our elected officials and the participation of the “Who’s who” of the Muslim community here, one can only feel proud of this now established annual tradition. But due to the sheer number of speakers and the high quality of their delivery, unfortunately only a chosen slice of the proceedings can be highlighted here in this report. Only some of the speeches will be briefly highlighted here.
After a social hour where many friends got a chance to meet, the formalities began as Yannina Casillas, CAIR’s Legislative & Government Affairs Coordinator, called on young Hassan from the area Al Fatimah Center to deliver the invocation. And what is usually saved for last came first during this event as Assemblymember Cristina Garcia presented CAIR with a much appreciated Ramadan Resolution which she read out. She also said that it is an honor to be here at this interfaith gathering. Garcia highlighted the freedom of religion in our great country and shared the fact that she too was a daughter of immigrants whose parents came here like many others to participate in the American dream.
State Senator Richard Pan spoke next. He said that he was proud to represent the people of the Sacramento area including Muslims, some of whom have lived here for a very long time, and others who are immigrants, plus the recently arriving refugees. He added that Sacramento welcomes all of them. Being a doctor himself, Pan pointed out that Muslim-Americans make up approximately 10% of the physicians in the United States. He also proceeded to recognize a clinic in California formed after civil unrest in the Los Angeles area, the University Muslim Medical Association (UMMA) Clinic, which was founded to help heal the community. Leaders of UMMA Clinic were present tonight and were invited to the podium to receive a certificate of recognition.
State Controller Betty Yee in her speech thanked her colleagues who were present in the gathering in an expression of solidarity, showing how much we embrace and value diversity in California. She also expressed her happiness at meeting friends from the interfaith community and added that by working together we will overcome all the challenges that we face. She gave a shout out to former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada who supported the Ramada Iftar at the Capitol when it was launched many years ago. Yee also highlighted the good work that CAIR has done within the community.
After Assemblymember Jim Cooper and State Senator Bill Dodd, the next speaker was Assemblymember Catherine Baker, a relatively newcomer here. Catherine, who represents the San Ramon area started with the greeting of “Peace be with you” and thanked the Muslim community for reaffirming our values. She said regardless of party lines note that both Democrats and Republicans are standing here with you. She also highlighted the truly wonderful contributions that faiths are making throughout our state.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (our host) received a huge round of applause. He expressed his appreciation of this special time of the year for Muslims and said that we are gathered here at a very important time for our country and our state and added that we are all going to continue to work together.
CAIR-Sacramento Valley Executive Director Basim Elkarra next introduced Maheen Ahmed (APICA) who works in Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula’s office. The Assemblymember himself had good things to say about Maheen before she made her speech. Maheen added a great deal on the topic of Ramadan itself and what it really meant to her. She said that the month was a lot more than fasting and focused on its accompanying mercy and compassion. And Mark Farouk, Chief of Staff at the office of Assemblymember Eloise Reyes and a Board Member at the Tarbiya Institute, followed and said that Ramadan makes us appreciate the blessings that we have and promotes our compassion for others who may go without food and water but not by their own choice. Ramadan is a time when we sacrifice our bodies and increase the strength of our spirit, he said.
After an introduction to UMMA Clinic and speeches by its representatives, a speaker from the Jewish community, Rabbi Seth Castleman, extended a wonderful gesture of goodwill. He said that if the 7 million Muslims in America are asked to register themselves he will himself register himself as 7 million and one. Dr Hatem Bazian of UC Berkeley and Zaytuna College closed the formal speeches with his focus on diversity in America. And Basim Elkarra closed the program by recognizing the sponsors of the event and introduced many prominent community members present just before the Azan (call to prayers) signaled the breaking of the fast.