A Vigil and Questions about Mohammad Ali Khan’s Death in Sacramento
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Mohammad Ali Khan was a young man from Pakistan who died in Sacramento, California, after reportedly suffering injuries in the downtown area of this city between 1:40 -2:15 AM on August 27, 2017 following his attendance at the birthday party of the wife of a friend.
Little was known about him in the local Pakistani community and this writer does not recall meeting or hearing about him before. But Ali, as he will be referred to from here on in this article, left this world tragically at the UC Davis Hospital on August 31st (he had been in a coma) and was buried on September 1st, Eid Day here, a Muslim holiday- the feast of sacrifice, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage.
For a usually joyous festival, this was the most somber of Eid Days for those of us who attended his funeral and burial at the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery. His mother had flown in from Pakistan just the day before, and one could only imagine her grief. Ali did not even get to see his 40th birthday.
This article was intentionally delayed to see if the local police had more to share with us as the days passed. Many of us have been following the local news media, especially the Sacramento Bee newspaper, for any follow-up stories about Ali’s death. But as of this writing nothing new has been reported about this case.
On September 7th a Vigil titled “A Night of Remembrance for Ali Khan” was held in downtown Sacramento at the intersection of 12thand K streets organized by Ali’s friends. Approximately 50 people including around 10 members of the local Pakistani and Muslim community attended. And it is what his friends had to say about him that somehow compounds this tragedy. We local Pakistani-origin people may not have known Ali but a large number of his co-workers at Apple Computer sure did. It was almost like a fan club with people from different races, ethnic origins, ages and gender speaking so highly of him. It was a very moving experience to learn about this young Pakistani, a man who was passionate about computers, into music, 3-D printing and a very capable employee who went out of his way to help others. Attending this vigil was an eye-opener!
One person, a parent who brought a bouquet of flowers at the vigil, described Ali as a pleasure to be around and that he was glad to call him his friend. Another friend teared up while recalling him. While another talked about working with Ali in a room called “The Dungeon” at Apple and recalled this Pakistani guy and his jokes and how he livened everything up around him, and went everywhere with headphones on. Another commented on his generous nature and how he always shared the gadgetry that he had, a very cool aspect about him. One other friend remembered his talks with Ali through fairly dark times. And more than a couple of young ladies also commended Ali for his help in their careers at Apple and for his friendship along the way.
Of all the sincere comments and expression of feelings shared by Ali’s friends, the words of his mother Nayyar Sultana were the most heartbreaking. She described her son as her hero, and from the sentiments expressed by his friends at this vigil; she was not off the mark. Many others thought that he was a very special person too. Some of us in the Pakistani-American community could learn from the example set by this young man because of the legacy of friendships that he left behind. How many people from the non-South Asian or Muslim community would hold such a vigil for us? We have had to struggle past various negative stereotypes recently and it appears that Ali negated almost all of them in his short life.
One can write here that people die or are killed everywhere and not all can get media attention. But the death of Mohammad Ali Khan raises some concerns not only for crime in downtown Sacramento but for the safety of the greater South-Asian or Muslim community in the United States. We need to find out what happened to him? A Facebook page tiled “We want justice for ali taj khan” has been set up. We appeal to the Sacramento Police Department to find out what happened and bring a proper closure to this case. And any help that anyone can provide them would be greatly appreciated.