Report and Photographs by Ras H. Siddiqui
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is a multifaceted organization with many projects and chapters around the United States. And like many other metropolitan areas Sacramento, California has an active ICNA Chapter, one which has rather quietly yet visibly been doing some good work engaging in promoting the Islamic faith (Dawah) in the region for some time.
The chapter holds two major local events for the Muslim community annually, the first being an Islamic Quiz to encourage young people to study the faith closely and the second, an Annual Supporters Dinner which helps to raise funds for its outreach efforts. “WhyIslam?” is a simple message which when displayed on Billboards clearly visible from major streets, highways and along freeways perks some curiosity amongst those that see it, enough to call the telephone number (1-877-WhyIslam) displayed with it. These Billboards require resources to be displayed and this event funds that effort. ICNA Sacramento also engages the non- Muslim community at their Dawah tables at local malls and the booth that they set up every year at the California State Fair has become wellknown. During these efforts free Quran’s are distributed, questions are answered, and people to people contact is started. Dawah material is also provided to other organizations at college campuses, hospitals and Mosques. And last but not least, ICNA Sacramento has also been distributing free backpacks, in a Back to School Backpack Giveaway Drive to help kids who need these supplies locally.
On Friday, May 8th, ICNASacramento held its 6th Annual Supporters Dinner at the Mack Powell Event Center, one which was not only well attended but well executed as well. Emcee Rafi Saied did a good job managing the flow of the program which started with a Quran Recitation and a welcome note. Imam Aamir Nazir from the Muslim Community of Folsom (MCF) Mosque delivered the first keynote focusing on the “Importance of Dawah”. Imam Aamir is from the new generation of the popular Imams in the local area. Hailing from South Africa, he is also an avid fan of the game of Cricket and many of us interacted with him continuously throughout the World Cup held in Australia earlier this year.
Imam Aamir Nazir said that bigotry and Islamophobia have to be countered by engaging the wider community and explaining our faith to them. He said that pessimism is what we need to counter within ourselves because doing nothing is not an option. “Analysis-Paralysis” as he calls it amongst Muslims in this country has to be countered. Building bridges and engaging in the interfaith effort need to be encouraged. Imam Nazir said that pessimism is against the teachings of Islam. He said that incidents like the recent events in Texas need to be countered through outreach and friendship (not violence) and that these acts of provocation are not new to Islam. He added that it is okay to think small because the true work that needs to be done is at the grassroots. Imam Nazir also said that we face challenges within our Mosques. How much wisdom are we using? If we are not using wisdom within our community, how then are we going to get our message across to non-Muslims?
Imam Tahir Anwar of the South Bay Islamic Association (SBIA) and faculty member at the Zaytuna Institute delivered the second keynote. He is another Imam who has shown that he has both the ability and the pragmatism required to assist our community in post 9/11 America. His speech focused on “The Prophet’s honor and Our Role”. He praised ICNA’s WhyIslam effort and said that through it we were reaching out to the average Joe, in America, one who is not well-informed about our religion and has to depend on incidents in the media. He said that some people are spreading hate (against Muslims) in this country and they are well paid. He said that we need to explain to non-Muslims why we cannot draw images of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and asked whether the recent Texas incident was all about freedom of speech or something else? Imam Anwar said that the Prophet’s honor had already been protected by Allah. What we need to show to do to show our respect for him is to be kind and tolerant like him. He said that letting ignorance about our faith continue to guide the mainstream community is not an option and that the first step is really simple: “Have you talked to your neighbor?” A slide presentation on ICNASacramento’s activities and financial status was presented by Dr. Jawad Ahmad followed by a video before the break for Magrib prayers. The fundraising activity was conducted by Br. Munir Iqtish who said that he wanted to make it short session because he was standing between everyone and dinner! He shared a story of wisdom and spirituality with the gathering and said that we have an opportunity here to make a real difference. And one must say that Br. Iqtish made his point well as over $67,000 was collected at this event.
Article Courtesy: Pakistan Link
Report and Photographs by Ras H. Siddiqui