Pakistan Link – March 13, 2004
American Muslim Voice solidarity dinner
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
National Day of Solidarity with Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians was celebrated at a lively dinner and speaking event hosted by American Muslim Voice on Sunday, February 22, 2004 at the Mehran Restaurant, Newark CA.
Peace and justice activists from all over the San Francisco Bay Area enjoyed a delicious dinner of South Asian dishes before the observance began with the recitation of the Holy Quran by Mr. Iftekhar Hai, Director of the Interfaith Tolerance Project of United Muslims of America.
A dozen Bay Area activists, representing at least as many active and dedicated peace and justice organizations, spoke from their hearts about standing in solidarity with each other and with targeted people everywhere. Their fellow activists heard them tell how they became part of the movement to support Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians since 9/11, and their hopes for a better future.
The voices of wisdom from a diverse spectrum included: Ben Allen, Blue Triangle Network; Cynthia Morse, Savors; Matt Vansun, Amnesty International; Tanya, Not In Our Name; Nam Nguyen, United Asians; Alicia Larco, Day Laborers; Don Sparks, Refuse and Resist; Rita Akayama, October 22nd Coalition; Cecilia Chang, Justice for New Americans; Bob Kearney, American Civil Liberty Union and Riva Einteen, KPFA Board Member.
Democratic Presidential hopeful, Dennis Kuchinich, sent his representative to the solidarity dinner and assured the American Muslim community that he stands by it and .
In a message to the AMV, Rev. Michael Yoshii of Buena Vista United Methodist Church who was unable to attend the solidarity dinner, said “We are reminded that the forces which committed Japanese Americans into concentration camps during World War II are present with us today.”
The wartime commission which issued the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 apologizing to Japanese Americans cited “wartime hysteria,” “racial prejudice,” and “lack of political leadership,” as the factors leading to the incarceration of Japanese Americans, Rev. said adding: “We know that since 9/11, with the “War on Terrorism,” these similar forces are at play in the detention and deportation of not only Muslim and Arab Americans, but also other South Asian and Asian American groups as well.”
Rev. Michael Yoshii said “we know that your communities are in the precarious position of being identified with the perceived enemy in an environment of war. The anxieties and fears aroused by such conditions are within our visceral memory and history. We pray for those who have been separated from families, and those whose cases are yet to be heard. I share with you the outrage and concern that stems from a place of hope, a call for justice, and a mutually found spiritual faith.”
Earlier welcoming the guests, Ms Samina Faheem Sundas, AMV Executive Director, said it was her honor to have that many committed people in one room. “It is my fellow Americans' support and strength that keeps me going. I feel blessed to have this kind of support under the current political atmosphere. I feel that was my first step towards my dream of bringing all of us together to make the most beautiful diverse human wall of support and strength, one that can't be shaken. ”
She urged the Muslim brothers and sisters, to educate themselves about what is happening in the country, get involved, mobilize others as well and thank the people who have been standing by us since 9/11.
Ms Samina Faheem Sundas said most of you asked me about the source of my energy for extensive outreach work with various communities, “I would like you to meet a very special kid in my life, the source of my energy, he is little Faisal Ahmad.”
Three prominent activists were presented with special awards for their dedication and effectiveness, and spent the evening in places of honor.
The "Spirit of Solidarity Award" went to Reverend John Oda, Senior Pastor of Pine United Methodist Church, San Francisco, whose church has supported the Jones Street Mosque through vandalism and hate crimes. Reverend John Oda said it is important to know why we are observing solidarity day for Muslims, Arabs and South Asians. He added that his grand parents were in the internment camps during the second world war. Even though he never experienced that first hand but he could feel the pain of that ordeal.
Medea Benjamin, Founding Director, Global Exchange, received the "Human Rights Award" for her unwavering work in all areas of rights. Father Louis Vitale, Pastor of Saint Boniface, San Francisco, was awarded the "Intercommunity Peace and Justice Award," in appreciation of his exemplary courage of conviction in the face of great adversity and leadership by example.
Father Louis Vitale, ubiquitous and inspirational leader, spoke with humor and conviction in his speech.
The dinner's organizer, Samina Faheem Sundas, Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice, was congratulated on the very successful event. The evening gave people who work hard, and often without the reward of short-term effect, an opportunity to be together. The participants were warmed and encouraged by their peers and by the words of their leaders.
Dr. Nagmana Bajwa, a civil rights activist, presented the vote of thanks.
Cynthia Morse contributed to this report.