I’m a social justice advocate – and an activist. I’m someone who loves learning. Someone who loves meeting people and hearing stories and finding ways to work to make them feel more at ease. I’m a son. I’m a father… I’m a brother.
I’m the director here at the Islamic center in Fresno. I do a lot of outreach and interfaith work, and represent the center on multiple different councils across the city. I try to bring on a more positive representation of who we are to the community.
My community and the people that I love is much bigger than the Muslim community. So I have a lot of concerns.
I’m fearful for those men and women who are undocumented have to fear deportation. Who fear dropping their kids off at school and being torn away from them by ICE agents.
I fear for my new young Muslim brothers and sisters face this world with in fear of attack when they leave their homes because of another’s hatred. Our children deal with terror in the public school system. Just going to school is tough.
I believe the basis of all change is relationship building, so we need to find ways to bring all different communities together to truly know and care for one another.
ON FAITH AND HOPE
How does faith breathe life into my work? I come from a tradition in which we have great leaders who were revolutionaries who came and changed society as much as they could.
Imam Ali, the leader after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), said that if you think the day of judgment will be tomorrow and you’re holding a seed in your hand, then plant it.
So we believe that you can still make a change even if time is done. You have to keep that hope.
In the religion of Islam, losing hope is one of the worst things that you can do. It’s a huge sin for us. Because if you lose hope, are you going to ask God for repentance or for forgiveness? If you think that you’ve done something so bad that God won’t love you, are you going to cut yourself off from God or are you going to be hopeful in his mercy and in his grace? Hope is an extremely important concept for all of us.
Everything about my faith informs what I do. The core concept of the Qur'an is justice. God demands justice upon us. God demands us to be just with other human beings, with animals, the planet, the earth, the wind... To not commit an act of injustice against any of creation.
So I probably would still be doing the work if I didn’t have the same faith, but it’s my faith that gives me a structure and a hope. It gives me the examples of people who lived and breathed, who gave their lives for hope.
In the holy Quran, God tells human beings, “Oh mankind I have instilled you with dignity” – “Oh sons of Adam, I bestowed in you – or I gave you – human dignity”. Therefore no country, no race, no group, no family, no job gives you dignity - you already have it.
And if you have that the no country no grace no religion no state no group can take away that dignity either. So I think my perfect world would start with all of us understanding and recognizing the inherent dignity of the other.
As soon as you understand the inherent dignity of one another and your own dignity, then racism would no longer be an issue. Economic injustice would no longer be an issue. These things will dissolve because we would care about the other person. As soon as you care, then you’ll do a lot.
So that’s the future I would create - one in which we understood one another’s inherent dignity, and we cared for each other.
ON WORKING FOR CHANGE
Working with Faith in the Valley, we’ve worked to educate community members and push our legislators to pass SB 54 and 32. Which are about the Muslim registry in the sanctuary state bill.
We are pushing for healthcare reform, we’ve worked on housing initiatives, for rental housing inspections and on check-cashing ordinances – not allowing as many check cashing places to pop up that rob people of their hard earned money in the form of interest.
In many places, Muslims have not been a very politically active group of people in this country. Many who’ve come from other countries have seen voting in their country not really matter. So we done a lot here in our center and in our community to educate people about their ability and right to vote. Their ability and right to be engaged.
We bring elected officials to the center for meetings with the community, so we can meet them and so they can know us. They come and they have to look at our faces. They have to see who we are and understand that they’re serving us to.
Additionally, it’s good for our people to see that they can approach an elected official – that you can ask them for things and can tell them that they’re wrong... That our people are no longer living under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein or the King of Saudi Arabia. You won’t face jail time if you stand up for the things and people you care about.