Woodland Mosque Interfaith Iftar Promotes Friendship
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Woodland, California, may not currently be on the national map of religions but it easily could be. It has a vibrant faith-based community which exhibits its unity through a Peace Picnic every year and much more.
This city, roughly 15 miles from Sacramento, in Yolo County, and just north of Davis, has an estimated population of close to 60,000 which includes a vibrant Muslim community (of predominantly Pakistani origin). And their Mosque and Islamic Center located on North Street is fulfilling its role in the religious mosaic that makes up the population of the city. On June 17, 2017 an interfaith Iftar (Ramadan breaking of the fast) was held in the courtyard of this facility which attracted its ethnic and religious diversity and included many dignitaries.
The theme of this Ramadan event was “From Fear to Friendship” which also happens to be a motto for the American Muslim Voice Foundation (AMV) and it was by no accident that two of its leaders were present here. Khalid Saeed is the AMV National President and a long-time Woodland area community activist whose articles appear regularly in the local newspaper. It would not be stretching things here to write that Khalid has put the Woodland Muslim Community on the local map. The other AMV force who traveled all the way from Palo Alto to join us was Samina Sundas, the founder and Executive Director of AMV. Also in attendance was the Woodland City Mayor Angel Barajas. But let us not forget that none of these leaders would be in their respective roles without the people who are their base of strength. And that is what the over 200 people in attendance at this Iftar represented, and about half of them were fasting Muslims.
The list of presenters present here was long and each one of them contributed to this event in their own way. Besides the three already mentioned, we had Imam Sharif Sialvi who delivered the invocation, Rev. Terri Hobart presented the Interfaith Prayer for Peace, youth representative Ayesha Sadiq explained fasting, City Manager Paul Navazio, Chief of Police Luis Soler, Peace Catalyst David Vidmar, President Woodland Community College Dr Michael White, Fire Department Chief Rebecca Ramirez, the Rev. Elizabeth Brick, County Assessor Jesse Salinas all spoke and Reve. Del Zeiger performed a prayer just before the Ramadan meal. Event emcee Khalid Saeed also took the opportunity at this event to introduce the Board of Directors of the Woodland Mosque plus a group of young students from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan, who have been studying at UC Davis. One is glad that these students were invited so that they could gain an understanding of the real America, one which embraces diversity and contains a hardworking people who can be generous to a fault (just like many Pakistanis).
Khalid Saeed in his role wearing many hats at this event welcomed everyone with the customary Islamic greeting of Peace Be Upon You. He joked about “Pakistan Standard Time” and pointed out that a lot more people will be here soon (and they were as the place was packed later) and thanked everyone present for being here. He said that this was an opportunity for local leaders to meet the Muslim community and for the community to meet its leaders. On the event theme “From Fear to Friendship” Khalid said that the fear of the unknown can be troubling and the only way we can get rid of it is if we meet (face to face) like this. He added that we have both some new faces and very old friends here. He elaborated on the two parts of the event, a social get-together being the first and the Iftar meal being the second. He also took the opportunity to explain the month of Ramadan to the non-Muslims present in the gathering.
The Mayor of Woodland Angel Barajas came to the podium and introduced some of the dignitaries present. He acknowledged the significance of the Muslim community of Woodland and said that it had played an important part in the development of this city. He added that in America we embrace all cultures and religions and that in Woodland we do not just say it but we also demonstrate it. He also named a Muslim who recently joined the City work force. Barajas presented a City of Woodland Mayoral Proclamation to Khalid Saeed in recognition of his contributions in promoting a community of peace and respect for all.
After the breaking of the fast Executive Director of the AMV Samina Sundas in her speech asked fellow American friends to step up and become our ambassadors. She said that even after 15 years of 9/11 we keep on hearing, “Where are the moderate Muslims? Why are they not saying anything? Tell them to take you to us moderate and peaceful Muslims,” she said. They are all around America, in your neighborhoods. They are your teachers. They are your students. They are your doctors and your nurses. They are doing any job that Americans can imagine. It is crucial that we get your support. We need ambassadors to convey this fact, said Sundas.
A community that breaks bread together stays together. That is exactly what followed here, as the event drew to a close with some spicy Pakistani food consumed by all in attendance.