CAIR holds its 2nd Annual Muslim Day

Some State Capitol politicians with visitors
Some State Capitol politicians with visitors

SACRAMENTO, CA: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held its 2nd Annual Muslim Day at the Capitol in Sacramento recently during which over a hundred representatives including many South-Asians from all over California took the opportunity to interact with the California State Government.

Although it was windy under the CAIR tent outside on the Capitol grounds, this was another beautiful spring day in California’s capital city. A walk near the World Peace Rose Garden at State Capitol Park was warranted which somewhat delayed this scribe’s arrival to the formal event opening

The day proved that this is a place which is beautiful both inside and out. Although our main topics of interest targeted by CAIR for the day were 1) AB4 TRUST Act and 2) AB 241 CA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights plus 3) Free Speech Rights on College Campuses, the handful of the 110 meetings held during the day which I could attend demonstrated a sensitivity amongst our State Senate and Assembly on these and other topics of interest for not just Muslims but all Californians.

For those who may not be aware, AB4 deals with the issue of local law enforcement sharing information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the S-Comm program. CAIR seeks to limit costly detentions of aspiring citizens in local jails for deportation purposes and it only supports its use for serious crimes. AB-241 deals with the issue of housekeepers, nannies and caregivers in private homes so that their rights too can be protected including overtime pay, meal and rest breaks etc. The third quest for the day (Free speech rights on College campuses) is not an Assembly Bill yet but a push for one.

After a formal mid-morning opening, the attendees were split up into teams/groups based on their residence address and areas of interest. This writer was assigned to Team H, with a first meeting scheduled with Muffadal Ezzy representing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a meeting that I could not reach on time (the Capitol takes a little getting used to for the once a year rookie).

The second meeting was with Betsy Hodges at the offices of Senator Ted Gaines who represents my own residential district. It was a learning experience because we rarely get to interact with either our representatives or their staffers unless we really need to. The last scheduled interaction was with Amin Nojan, Assembly Fellow at Assemblymember Bill Quirk’s office.

Bill represents California’s 20th Assembly District (Hayward and adjacent areas) where Muslims and south-Asians (Afghans, Indians and Pakistanis) are becoming quite a voting force due to their increasing numbers.

As a media representative I accompanied two other teams during their visits to the offices of Assemblymember Roger Dickinson and Senator Jim Beall respectively. Roger represents California’s 7th Assembly District which includes Sacramento. He has been a good friend of all minority communities including local Muslims and South-Asians. He listened to the team and responded to all the points raised by CAIR’s Basim Elkarra while looking for common ground.

Senator Jim Beall from the Fifteenth Senate District is now a Silicon Valley (San Jose area) political veteran who has been a member of the City Council, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, State Assembly and now the California Senate. Amongst his many areas of focus his continuing strong support for children with disabilities has been commendable. Jim also supports responsible free speech and is a good listener. Some in our community have known him since his San Jose City Council days when he became its youngest elected member at the age of 28.

He has been widely supported by the south-Asian and Muslim community in his district for many years now and embodies the good old American value of fairness for those in need.

During and after lunch the wind kicked up a notch, but the political engagement continued just as vigorously as Assemblymembers Mariko Yamada, Paul Fong and Cristina Garcia addressed the gathering just before the event officially came to a close. Support from the Asian and Latino members of our political leadership has been both inspirational and essential for our community. This was certainly reflected during Ms. Yamada’s speech which included the hope that one of us at this gathering will one day become an elected member working inside the Capitol.

In closing it was a great day overall for both California and the “experience” called America, one which triumphs over an atrocity like Boston approximately two weeks earlier by continuing to promote peace and inclusion.

(Dedicated to the memory of the late James Beall Sr. (1923-2011) of the 82nd Airborne, and his family)

Ras Siddiqui

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