IM: Participants at this interfaith lovefest which was held in the Boys and Girls Club in Lodi across the street from the mosque were not only duped into signing a "Declaration of Peace" with an Al Qaeda operative, they were also hoodwinked into a Da'wa session by Imam Adil Khan who is now jailed on terrorism charges. He told the newspaper that he wanted " them (infidels) to come see how we pray", adding :"this is our country" but neglecting to point out that the "our" pertained to Muslims, and working together meant that everyone had to submit to Allah's will by converting to Islam. As for 'Rabbi' Gwasdoff, who gushed to the Muslims that they "were lucky to have such learned leaders" one must conclude that he has never heard of the concept of Jihad and Da'wa . Perhaps he could cut a deal to ferry kosher meals to Imam Adil in prison in exchange for learning more about Islam and Al Qaeda in the interests of further interfaith dialouge. Which begs the question of how the Rabbis, pastors, and other religous leaders who took part in the Lodi and Sacramento love fests will be able to explain how Imam Adil Khan, co signer of their interfaith "Declaration of Peace is now accused of terrorism. Past experience with interfaith dhimmitude shows that rather then blame themselves, or show outrage at being made to look like fools, they will most likely claim that Khan didn't understand what he was signing and offer to translate the document into Arabic next time.
We want them to come see how we pray"
This is our country," said Mohammad Adil Khan. "We have to work together."
"I have learned so much about Islam," (Rabbi) Gwasdoff told Muslims on Friday. "You are so lucky to have such learned leaders."
MIM :A quote by 'Rabbi' Gwasdorff in a newspaper article after Khan's arrest showed that you can fool some of the people all of the time. It is an obscene travesty that Gwasdoff is more concerned about Khan's reputation being damaged then the plans to sow death and destruction by blowing up of supermarkets and hospitals by Khan's Muslim brothers in Lodi He dismisses Khan's ties to Osama Bin Laden as"guilt by association".
"...Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff of Stockton's Temple Israel has met Khan at several interfaith sessions.
"My impression of Mohammad Adil is that he's a warm, kind, generous man," he said. "He's the kind of person who greets outsiders with open arms. I'm hoping that it's not guilt by association. Think of how damaging this is to his reputation."
"...The FBI, though, paints a link between Khan's father -- Salimullah Khan -- the head of Farooqia Islamic University in Pakistan, and an associate, Fazlur Rehman Khalil. Khalil signed a 1998 fatwa of Osama bin Laden advocating the killing of Americans and their allies.
The Celebration of Abraham, a movement that started a year ago among several religious leaders and lay people in the Lodi area to spread cultural respect and world peace, has spread to Stockton and other Northern California communities.
Last year's celebration was held before a packed house at the Lodi Boys and Girls Club in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy. The event focused on the common belief in the patriarch Abraham and his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, among the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.
As part of the Celebration of Abraham last year, three religious leaders and three lay people signed a document called the "Declaration of Peace," which denounces violence and fosters respect among the three major faiths.
The Declaration of Peace was signed by one member of the clergy and one lay person from each faith -- Norm Mowery, who was pastor last year at First United Methodist Church in Lodi; Mohammad Adil Khan, imam of the Lodi Muslim Mosque; and Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff of Temple Israel in Stockton, the only synagogue in San Joaquin County...
What was primarily a Lodi event last year has become a San Joaquin County celebration, with Gwasdoff, the Stockton rabbi, taking the lead.
Gwasdoff, Pastor Bill Cummins of Bear Creek Community Church in south Lodi and representatives from three Stockton churches gathered at the Lodi Muslim Mosque on Poplar Street for the Muslims' special Friday prayer.
"We want them to come see how we pray," said Mohammad Adil Khan, no relation to Taj Khan.
Cummins told a packed house of Muslims he was honored to have Imam Mohammad Adil Khan come to his church for a service a few weeks ago.
"I've gotten to know the imam the last couple of months," Cummins said after the prayer. "I thought it was important to share Jesus with any group. We need to be proponents of peace. Jesus Christ is the prince of peace."
Khan encouraged Muslims on Friday to participate in the Celebration of Abraham from 6:30 to 8 p.m. June 8 at Church of the Presentation, 6715 Leesburg Place, Stockton. At the celebration, representatives of different faiths will give their own interpretation of Abraham.
"I have learned so much about Islam," Gwasdoff told Muslims on Friday. "You are so lucky to have such learned leaders."
In preaching for world peace, Gwasdoff said, "We have only one world, and we have to learn to live together in peace. We are all children of one God and one Creator. The problem is politics."
Cummins praised the commonality of "obedience to God over everything else" among Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Other churches participating in Friday's prayer at the mosque were Gary Putnam, pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Stockton; Alexis Easton of Grace United Methodist Church in Stockton; Sister Sylvia Post of Church of the Presentation, a Catholic church in Stockton; Carol McCandless, director of religious education at Presentation; and Kenny Montet, youth minister at Presentation.
McCandless said she is excited about meeting people of other faiths because she teaches a history of world religions course at San Joaquin Delta College.
"I think it's important to acknowledge that Abraham is the father of faith, and I don't think a lot of people realize it," McCandless said.
"This is our country," said Mohammad Adil Khan. "We have to work together."
(Courtesy Lodi News-Sentinel, 5/24/03)
MIM: Imam Adil who is now in jail on terrorism charges also took part in this interfaith event in Sacramento. The article ended with what can now be regarded as a rhetorical question in the case of Imam Adil .
It all began with the Prophet Abraham, one who is recognized by three faiths as one of theirs. And since neither one of these faiths, Judaism, Christianity nor Islam (listed here by seniority) can claim exclusive ownership of the Abrahamic heritage, a few people in Lodi, California led by Randy Rosa (http://www.celebrateabraham.org/ ) decided that instead of separately honoring a figure that all three admire, this admiration should instead be converted and used as a tool for creating inter-religious peace and community harmony.
Abraham event originator Randy Rosa
In this idea of a common bond via a Prophet of God an event called "A Celebration of Abraham" was announced. And just recently on Thursday, September 11 and Saturday September 14, 2003 two major gatherings were held in Sacramento and Woodland, California respectively to bring together three communities of believers who have decided not to let international events get in the way of sharing their common bonds.
Muslim children from SALAM perform in Woodland
Muslims, Christians and Jews address the Woodland meeting
Washing of hands in Woodland jointly by Christians, Muslims and Jews
(Left to Right): Rabbi Bloom, Rev. Thompson, Dexter McNamara and Dr. Metwalli Amer at the Sacramento Interfaith event
A section of the Sacramento Abraham gathering
Water and bread bring religions and people together
On September 11th, a day which we now solemnly commemorate due to the thousands of American lives lost to terrorism and one which now has also erroneously become a symbol of the clash between religions, over 300 Jews, Christians and Muslims gathered at the SALAM (Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims) Community Center to not only reflect on the serious nature of the 2nd Anniversary of 9/11 but to share their Abrahamic heritage and look back upon the wonderful work that the local Interfaith Service Bureau (ISB) has done since that tragic day.
Muslims were the hosts at SALAM led by Dr. Metwalli Amer, as a panel presented its views via the wisdom of Dr. Amer, Jewish Rabbi Bloom, Christian Reverend David Thomson and ISB Executive Director Dexter McNamara (who did not have to play Referee but did coordinate the panel/audience activities). The activities here were assisted by Fr. James Murphy and a number of people from the local Sacramento and Lodi Muslim community (Mr. Taj Khan and Imam Adil).
Dexter started off by describing this gathering as an opportunity to listen and learn. One commentator said that "the human dimension is far more important than our differences."
Dr. Metwalli Amer welcomed everyone and introduced them to SALAM and described this as a memorable evening where a Jewish Rabbi, a Christian Minister and a Muslim Imam were together on this solemn anniversary. He thanked everyone for joining together this evening and encouraged the sharing of food and ideas. Rabbi Bloom next presented his six points on the Jewish beliefs associated with the Prophet Abraham and emphasized the monotheistic aspect of the faith in one God and spoke of the ultimate test given to him by asking for the sacrifice of his son Isaac. He also spoke of various Jewish concepts and beliefs and especially centered on the sharing of food and hospitality.
Rev. David Thomson who spoke next turned out to be a tremendously entertaining speaker. His views on OBL, the sacrifice of Abraham and the concept of "the Promised Land" (which he found problematic) and the local interfaith journey were extremely well received. He spoke about God the creator and commented on the basis of this gathering. He ended by saying, "If Abraham is the father of Ishmael then every Arab is a Hebrew."
Dr. Metwalli Amer ended the speech segment as he explained that Islam came last and how Muslims viewed the Prophet Abraham by holding him in very great regard and how we can all learn from the traditions that have followed since. "As children of Abraham Muslims are taught to reach out to people of all faiths," he said.
A lively Question and Answer session was held soon after giving all the panelists an opportunity to respond to very pertinent questions on beliefs, the causes of and the possible abolition of war. It was also pointed out that 9/11 was a complete contradiction of what Judaism, Christianity and Islam taught us. Food, conversation and renewed friendship ended the evening.
On September 14th the Holy Rosary Parish Community Center in Woodland, California was filled to maximum seating capacity as close to 500 people from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim community from Davis and Woodland gathered to celebrate the added Abrahamic legacy of the three faiths and dwelled on what we all have in common as opposed to our differences. This more formal event most certainly succeeded in bringing those that did not know each other previously as I shared a table with Mr. Khalid Saeed of the local American Muslim Alliance, a Jewish political activist, another Jewish couple, a Catholic couple and a two Methodist Christians. And at this table only three of us knew each other previously.
The host, Father John Boll of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Woodland spoke first and bid everyone (Jew, Christian and Muslim) welcome. He said that Abraham was the first to believe in the one God. On 9/11 he commented; "That terrifying day has changed the world." Commenting on the gathering, he added, "This is one of the positive results out of our national tragedy."
Randy Rosa from Lodi spoke next. As the originator of this Abraham event concept, Randy may have surprised some by stating that he was raised as a racist. But then he described his change of philosophy after he visited various parts of the world and became friends with Muslim and Jewish people. He spoke of Isaac and Ishmael and hatred and violence in the Middle East. "It is a joy for me to see this gathering," he said.
"This is something historical that you are a part of," he added. He ended his speech talking about good neighbors and for us to take the opportunity to get to know one another at this event. I had spoken with Randy earlier in Sacramento when he described his feelings on a cross burning incident in Lodi close to a decade earlier and the friendship that he had developed with a Pakistani family. He said that after 9/11 he and some friends decided to do what they had planned earlier and get Muslims, Christians and Jews together to develop a greater understanding under the common heritage of Abraham.
Michael Hirsh of the local (Jewish) Congregation Bet Haverim in Davis described Abraham as the human father of all of our faiths. "In the name of religion we have killed one another," he said but added, "that can change." He went on to say that "today can be the start of a truly historic journey." Rabbi Greg Wolfe of the same congregation next heralded the Jewish segment of the Abrahamic faiths individual segments. Opening with "Peace, Shalom Salam," Wolfe suggested that peace can be obtained bit by bit and that we were heading towards a world of peace, understanding and respect. A scriptural reading by Ernie and Hannah Biberstein with an interpretation by Rabbi Wolfe and a musical presentation (Lechi Lach) ended the individual Jewish segment.
The Christian segment started off with Rev. Kathy McIntosh-Smith of the Woodland Presbyterian Church presenting a prayer seeking world peace followed by Reverend David Affleck of the St. Lukes Episcopal Church, Woodland who read from the scriptures. Reverend Eileen Lindsay of the United Methodist Church, Davis presented an interpretation and mentioned. She spoke of Abraham bringing us together and the breaking of barriers. The Christian segment ended with the recognition of our common heritage and deep roots together and a hymn sung by Leoni called "The God of Abraham Praise."
And now to the Muslim segment. Mr. Khalid Saeed who is a well-known personality in Muslim and interfaith circles in this area bid "Shalom" to the Jews, "Peace" to the Christians and "Salam" to the Muslims at the gathering. The segment started off with an Abrahamic prayer recited by Imam of the Woodland Mosque translated by Mr. Saeed. The segment also included a reading from the scriptures in Arabic by Dr. Ahmad Khairat, a Professor at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt with a translation by Hamza El-Nakhal of the Islamic Center in Davis. An interpretation and speech was delivered by Dina El-Nakhal and a wonderful singing of ‘Tala'a al Badru Alayna' by a group of children from SALAM School in Sacramento closed the Muslim segment at this venue.
But all was not over. A unique hand-washing ceremony and the symbolic breaking of bread at each table by members of the three faiths closed the formal program with prayers by representatives of each.
In conclusion one has to commend a lot of individuals for working together and coming up with something positive for people of the three Abrahamic faiths as an answer to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. While admitting that at these gatherings we may not have found solutions to the complex problems of the world one has to agree that small yet formidable beginnings are being made right here in America. And for those of us who are skeptical or even critical of such experiments one can only ask one question. What is the alternative?
MIM: Metwalli Amer, who was cited above as the moderator of the Sacramento interfaith event invited the now jailed Imam Adil Khan as a speaker . Amer's terrorist track record for playing host to Muslim clerics with also includes Bin Laden second in command Ayman Al Zawahari.
In the 1990's 'Muslim community activist' Amer extended his hospitality and arranged a fundraiser for Ayman Al Zawahari at the Masjid Annur mosque in Sacramento. It appears that Al Zawahari pitch was so convincing that raised thousands of dollars that were used to perpetrate terrorist attacks which included the bombings of two US Embassies in Africa resulting in hundreds of deaths. When asked to comment on the fact that he helped Al Zawahari raise money for terrorist attacks, Amer Amer, who is a college professor and was lauded for his "wisdom" at the 2003 Sacramento interfaith event disingenuously stated that :
"I'm trusting, and sometimes it shakes my trust," said Amer, a college professor who runs an organization called the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims. "You bring people here and you don't know if they have a hidden agenda.."
MIM: In the 1990's is was known fact that any Muslim who was appealing on behalf of 'widows and orphans' in Afghanistan was referring to the families of Muhajideen fighters against the Russians, so any claim that the Muslim community did not know that their contributions would be going to aid the 'war effort' is totally false. The son of one of the wealthiest Muslims in America, Ethan Allen CEO Farouq Kathwari, was killed fighting Jihad in Afghanistan in 1992. http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/597
Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman was also a guest of Metwalli Amer who "said that twice during the late 1980s and early 1990s, he helped host a visit to Sacramento by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the infamous blind cleric from New Jersey who was later convicted of plotting to blow up bridges and tunnels in New York. Rahman is said to be the spiritual leader of the group that carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people.
During his Sacramento trip, Rahman was preaching about Islam but not fund raising, Amer said. Still, when Amer heard of Rahman's terrorist ties years later, "I was shocked," he said. "I cannot forget that."
During the Afghan-Soviet war, Islamic relief organizations were in Sacramento once or twice a month
Metwalli Amer's hosting of terrorist Al Zawahari who was in the US fundraising for Muslims in Afghanistan begs the question as to if Amer will attribute his hosting of now jailed Imam Adil Khan at a California interfaith event is due to his 'trusting nature' or will be blamed on his having forgotten about his previous guest's masterminding of the first World Trade Center bombing.The fact that Amer Metwalli, who helped two Al Qaeda terrorist masterminds raise money for their activities in Sacramento, is now hosting the interfaith dialouge under the aegis of group called Salam, is the proof of the obscene travesty of interfaith. Amer has helped finance armed Jihad and is continuing to wage pyschological Jihad that that the same person who raised money for Jihad through Da'wa via his (and Salam's ) interfaith events in Sacramento.
Terrorist Ruse Hurt Giving by Muslims Muslims are expected to donate 2.5% of their savings each year. Many in the U.S. have scaled back after the terrorist attacks.
By Dale Kasler, Sacramento Bee
The visitor was seeking humanitarian assistance for war victims in Afghanistan. So Sacramento Muslims did what they routinely do when presented with a good cause: They gave money.
They were lied to. The man touring mosques in Sacramento and elsewhere in the United States in the early 1990s, claiming to raise money for widows and orphans, was actually financing terrorism.
The man wasn't just any fund-raiser, either. He was Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, then the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and now the right-hand man of accused terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Traveling under an alias, al Zawahiri is believed to have raised roughly $500,000 in the United States for such activities as the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan, according to terrorism expert Peter Probst. Al Zawahiri raised $3,000 to $4,000 at Sacramento's Masjid Annur mosque, said Metwalli Amer, a prominent Sacramento Muslim who unwittingly helped host al Zawahiri's trip to the city.
Al Zawahiri's U.S. fund-raising success illustrates the dilemma facing American Muslims--and the problems confronting the Bush administration as it tries to crack down on bin Laden's financial network.
Giving to charity is one of the foundations of Islam, and much of bin Laden's money comes from Islamic charities and other nonprofit groups in the United States and abroad, experts say. Although some donors knowingly support terrorists, most are in the dark, experts say. Some charities cover their ties to terrorists by funding schools, ambulance corps and the like, complicating shutdown efforts and generating confusion among donors.
"I'm trusting, and sometimes it shakes my trust," said Amer, a college professor who runs an organization called the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims. "You bring people here and you don't know if they have a hidden agenda."
Farouk Fakira, president of Masjid Annur--the Sacramento mosque that hosted al Zawahiri in the early 1990s -- said the mosque demands to see paperwork confirming a charity's federal nonprofit status before allowing any fund-raisers. Fakira said these safeguards preceded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "Most of the people are very wary," he said. "There are a lot of scam organizations."
Fakira, who came to Sacramento in 1995, said he wasn't familiar with reports of al Zawahiri's visit to the mosque.
The Sept. 11 attacks have hurt Muslim giving. Muslims are expected to donate annually 2.5 percent of their savings to charity, but many in America have scaled back after the terrorist attacks, said Aslam Abdullah, editor of Minaret Magazine, an Islamic publication in Los Angeles. One reason is they're unsure where the money's going, he said.
Sorting out the good from the bad also raises problems for federal investigators. In its effort to cut off funding to bin Laden's network, the Bush administration has run into diplomatic difficulties by including on its list of targets some charities known for their good works. The Rabita Trust, for instance, has ties to the Saudi government and was established by the Pakistani government to resettle refugees from Pakistan's war against Bangladesh.
While there are many legitimate Islamic charities, experts say some groups are mere fund-raising fronts for terrorism. Others are legitimate organizations that have been infiltrated by terrorist sympathizers who siphon funds, said Raphael Perl, a terrorism analyst at the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service. Still others do genuine humanitarian work but deliberately funnel some of their donors' money to terrorists, Perl said.
"There is both intentional and accidental leakage" of funds, Perl said. That adds to the difficulty of cutting the flow of funds. Hezbollah and Hamas, two high-profile Mideast terrorist organizations, have plenty of U.S. donors in part because they provide essential social services in a region of the world where governments usually fail to deliver, said Probst, a former terrorism analyst at the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency.
"Both Hezbollah and Hamas have schools for children and do take care of the widows and orphans," said Probst, who is now with the Institute for Terrorism and the Study of Political Violence. "They provide the social safety net...a chicken in every pot."
The Justice Department's crackdown on a suburban Chicago organization called the Quranic Literacy Institute illustrates the complexities of trying to track terrorists' funds through charities.
In 1998, the department obtained a court order freezing $1.4 million in assets belonging to the Quranic group and a man associated with it, Mohammad Salah. An FBI agent's affidavit said Salah served a five-year prison term in Israel for funneling money to Hamas.
Salah's attorney, Matthew Piers, said his client merely sent money to families of Palestinian men deported by Israel. But Piers acknowledged the money could have been diverted to illegitimate uses by a man working with Salah.
And that's the problem with cracking down on charities, Piers said. "It's very murky," he said. "It is in the nature of money that it is fungible. Therefore, you stop giving to charities?" Representatives of the Quranic institute couldn't be reached for comment.
Charitable organizations and religious leaders have often come to Northern California. Sacramento Muslims raised $38,000 in one night for Bosnia Muslims, $30,000 on another occasion for the Muslims of Kosovo, according to Amer.
Amer said some of the Kosovo funds went to the Global Relief Foundation, an Illinois charity that reportedly has been investigated by the Treasury Department for possible links to terrorism. The group has denied any wrongdoing, and it hasn't appeared on the government's list of groups whose assets are being frozen.
Amer said that twice during the late 1980s and early 1990s, he helped host a visit to Sacramento by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the infamous blind cleric from New Jersey who was later convicted of plotting to blow up bridges and tunnels in New York. Rahman is said to be the spiritual leader of the group that carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people.
During his Sacramento trip, Rahman was preaching about Islam but not fund raising, Amer said. Still, when Amer heard of Rahman's terrorist ties years later, "I was shocked," he said. "I cannot forget that."
During the Afghan-Soviet war, Islamic relief organizations were in Sacramento once or twice a month.
"There were often people coming to collect money for Afghanistan--plenty of organizations," said Dr. Atif Wardany, a Sacramento veterinarian.
So there was nothing out of the ordinary when, in the early 1990s, a prominent San Jose physician named Ali Zaki brought to Sacramento a man he said was representing the Red Crescent, the Muslim counterpart to the Red Cross. The visitor raised a relatively small sum in Sacramento--about $3,000 to $4,000--because the visit was hastily organized and took place on a weeknight, Amer said.
Amer and Wardany said they helped host Zaki and the supposed representative of the Red Crescent, not knowing he was al Zawahiri, the leader of the terror group Egyptian Islamic Jihad and future bin Laden deputy.
Al Zawahiri is bin Laden's ideological mentor and the chief organizer of bin Laden's terrorist network, al Qaeda, said terrorism expert Harvey Kushner of Long Island University. Al Zawahiri served a prison term in Egypt on weapons charges in a case stemming from the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Zaki's lawyer, former California Rep. Pete McCloskey, R-Santa Clara, said no one suspected a thing until early 1999. That's when a former Bay Area resident named Khaled Abu Dahab made a confession to authorities in Egypt.
Facing prosecution in a Cairo terrorism trial, Dahab said he and Zaki helped organize al Zawahiri's visit, according to an account of his secret confession reported in the London-based Arabic newspaper al Hayat. Al Zawahiri got into the country with a phony passport, Dahab said. The Long Island newspaper Newsday, citing documents from the same trial, has reported al Zawahiri also raised money in New York and Texas.
Dahab said Zaki knowingly assisted the terrorists' activities--a charge denied by the doctor's lawyer.
McCloskey said that after the Dahab confession surfaced, Zaki was questioned by the federal grand jury that indicted bin Laden, al Zawahri and others in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Zaki has been "wounded" by the experience, McCloskey said. The lawyer declined to make his client available for an interview, saying he's still cooperating with federal investigators and has been advised by the FBI not to speak to reporters.
There is some dispute about the timing of al Zawahiri's visit. Some Arabic papers have placed it in 1995, not the early 1990s. It's possible he came twice, as another ex-Californian with ties to terrorism has testified.
That man, Ali Mohamed, is a former Sacramentan and Bay Area resident who fell in with terrorists. Last fall, in pleading guilty to conspiracy in the embassy bombings case, Mohamed disclosed his role in bringing al Zawahiri to America.
"In the early 1990s, Zawahiri made two visits to the United States, and he came to United States to help raise funds for the Egyptian Islamic Jihad," he said in U.S. District Court in New York. "I helped him to do this."
MIM: Metwalli's Amer's activities on behalf of Ayman Al Zawahari and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman coincide with the existence of the SALAM Center which also houses a achool in Sacramento. The fact that Amer was the chairman of the SALAM Center makes his claims that he did not know about Zawahari's or Rahman's terrorist agendagenda absurd, since he appears to have been strategic person and West Coast contact figure in the North American Jihadi network
SALAM is a nonprofit, religious, tax-exempt [Tax ID # 68-0110471], organization, incorporated in the State of California in 1987.
On this occasion of SALAM's 16th anniversary where Phase II (the new Community Center) was completed, I was asked to write an account of its history to place in its Website. In doing so, I decided to refrain from giving recognition to anyone or express, by name, my deepest appreciation to all the brothers, sisters, and youth who have supported this organization by all the means available to them since its inception. First, I probably will forget some names. Second, I know the rewards from their Creator are better and everlasting more than any thanks from a brother and a friend.
Introduction: Why Did I Leave my Native Country?
Summer 1967 was a turning point in my life in Egypt. I was an Assistant Professor at Cairo University. My wife Rosalie was the university library administrator at the American University in Cairo. Both were happy in our positions until the 1967 defeat in the Egyptian-Israeli war which changed my outlook to life in Egypt. In summer 1969, I decided to immigrate to the U.S.A., where I accepted the offer from California State University in Sacramento as Associate Professor effective September 1969.
A Mosque in Town!
I was very happy when I knew that Sacramento had a mosque downtown. It was the only mosque in town in 1969. I planned my teaching schedule to be free for the Friday prayer although the khutbah was given in Urdu in those days. My relation continued with the V street Mosque for a good many years. My daughter Dija used to go to Sunday school after the construction of the new school facility. Together with many Arab friends, we went many afternoons to help in the landscaping of the new school. In November 1984, Masjid Annur at 14th Ave was purchased. I supported it and helped in getting its property tax-exempt status. I started going to it for prayers because it was closer to my home and the university.
My Vision of the Needs of the Muslim Community
The Sacramento area has been expanding significantly and the Muslim community has been corresponding to this expansion in greater proportion. Muslims reside throughout the Sacramento County, and it is getting difficult for some to come to the existing mosques. In addition, while Islam transcends ethnic boundaries, local mosques are ethnically oriented, and generally reach Muslims of the same ethnicity. I also felt that not much effort was done to project Islam and Muslims in a friendly and favorable light to the media and to fellow Americans of other faiths. Creating a dialogue among members of other faiths was needed.
In summer of 1986, I pondered about the above issues and local Muslims' affairs at that time. I felt deeply that the community needed a religious organization, run by a group of Muslims who transcended ethnic boundaries. This would ideally present Islam in its true image of moderation and acceptance. I spent some times in prayers, seeking the guidance of Allah in this endeavor, and all my feelings were to go ahead. To be incorporated legally, the requirements of the State of California and the Internal Revenue Service were strictly observed.
How the Name of SALAM Came into Being
At the end of that summer, my wife Rosalie and I were driving to visit one of her relatives in Napa Valley. She shared with me her interest in correcting the negative stereotype about Islam and Muslims in this country and believed a course of action should be planned. In turn, I shared with her the plan to establish a Muslim organization to promote Islamic teaching, understanding and unity among all Muslims in our community regardless of their ethnicities. Such an organization should reach out to everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and cooperate with peoples of other faiths in our community. This will reflect the Islamic message, enhance our standing in the community, and thus enable us to exert some influence in the society in which we live. We started thinking about a spiritual and catchy name, as an acronym. We thought of many names until we came up with SALAM which is one of the Arabic roots of Islam and it is mentioned 42 times in the Qur'an. We then started searching for words to stand for SALAM and came up with "Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims" as the legal name of the organization.
I spent the fall of 1986 reading materials at the State Library on how to establish a religious organization. I wrote the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws in a way to avoid crisis situations that happened in some mosques and Islamic centers. In writing those documents, I observed the requirements of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (pbuh). I did my best in drafting those documents to also minimize any possibility for conflicts in managing the organization. The management of SALAM is selected according to the Islamic principle of consultation from among those Muslims who have shown serious support to the organization and are willing to work as a team. In addition, the Articles of Incorporation are very broad to establish a variety of projects under SALAM's umbrella to meet future community needs. Each project can have its own independent management and separate bank account without any further need to establish a new organization. Since SALAM, as a parent organization, is tax-exempt, its separate projects will automatically be tax-exempt.
On December 22, 1986 I filed the proper papers with the Department of Corporations and the Franchise Tax Board. On February 23, 1987 I received a letter of determination from the Franchise Tax Board that SALAM has been established as a religious, tax-exempt organization. I also filed the necessary papers with the Internal Revenue Service and received similar letter of determination. Now that SALAM was legally established, it was time to announce it to the Muslim community.
The First Correspondence to the Community about SALAM
On April 2, 1987 I mailed a four-page letter to the Muslim community informing them of the new organization. I wish to quote several paragraphs from that letter to share with you what was going on my mind 16 years ago concerning the state of affairs of the Muslims in our community. The letter went on to say:
"We need an organized effort to mobilize our energies to work toward a united front to convey with pride the teachings, values, and heritage of Islam to ourselves, our families, and friends. We need to reach out to the greater Sacramento area to get every Muslim involved in such mobilization. We need to join hands as one block, in this age of communication technology, to put Islam in its proper place in our community..... Here comes the need for a strong and organized effort to achieve such goal. In the meantime, such a goal needs a strong community; and the strength of the community requires the devotion of each and every Muslim in it. It also requires the effective coordination of the activities of the various mosques to achieve unity, strength, and brotherhood."
"SALAM is not a membership organization. It is open for the participation and involvements of every Muslim in the community regardless of national origin. There are no fees to participate in the activities of SALAM. Non-Muslims are also welcome to attend its activities in order to know the correct message of Islam."
"The management of SALAM, as stated in its Bylaws, consists of:
1. An Advisory Council whose function is to give advice to the Board of Trustees in making decisions. 2. A Board of Trustees whose function is for making the decisions to run the organization. 3. An Executive Director to oversee the execution of the decisions made by the Board of Trustees. 4. Various functional committees to help in the implementation of the activities of SALAM."
The Dream that Occupied my Mind Then and Now
I concluded the letter by putting my great hopes for our Muslim community in a dream!
"I dream to see the day that all Muslims in this community capitalize on the many things they have in common, and ignore the minor differences that may divide them. I dream to see the day that the leaders of the various Mosques in our community will join hands to coordinate the celebration of their religious holidays together, and will be able to agree jointly to have one start and one end for the month of Ramadan. I dream to see the day, when we perform the Eid' prayers that all Muslims in this community will stand in one place as one block, at the same moment, and in one loud voice shouting Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. Only then can we draw the attention of the people around us who will recognize our unity, strength, and existence. Once those dreams become true, then the claim can be made that we are practicing Islam as it should be practiced according to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (pbuh). The Qur'an says: ‘And hold you fast to Allah's bond, together, and do not disunite' (3:103). Also Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), in his Farewell Khutbah, stated: "O mankind, listen well to my words; learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood."
Before signing the letter, I said the following prayer: "I pray to Allah to guide all of us to work unselfishly hard to achieve the above goals, and to bring the hearts and minds of all Muslims in this community closer together." Amen.
Early Contributions of SALAM
The reaction was favorable from the community in general. The first Advisory Council and Board of Trustees were multi-ethnic and their members were chosen from those who supported the new organization. The first Board of Trustees included: Dr. Atif Wardany, President, Br. Talib Madyun, Secretary and Dr. Arif Seyal, Chief Financial Officer. The first issue of SALAM's Newsletter was published on April 24, 1987 and continued without interruption, until brother Rafat Alafranji started with SALAM's Magazine in July 1996.
SALAM activities were modest in nature since it did not have any place from which it can operate. We brought Muslim scholars to speak to the Muslim community. We established a dialogue with peoples of other faiths. We established good relations with the media and conducted interviews with TV stations and wrote a number of Islamic articles in The Sacramento Bee. We celebrated Eid's holidays, catering to the children and youth to really feel the Eid occasion. In May, 1989 SALAM started a weekly TV Program called "Islam in Focus" on Sacramento Cable TV, the Religious Channel. In October 6th, 1989 Dr. Atif Wardany started SALAM's Friday Family Night Program at the Interfaith Service Bureau building.
We brought the leaders of the local Mosques together to establish one criterion to unify our Islamic events and holidays. The Muslim community managed to come together and performed Eid prayers and celebrations at one place and at the same time for four consecutive Eids, starting with Eid-ul Fitr on Sunday, March 13, 1994. The Monday, March 14, 1994 issue of The Sacramento Bee wrote this headline on the cover page of the Metro Section, "Capital's Muslims pray together". Bill Lindelof, Bee Religion Writer then, started the article by saying: "Muslims from Sacramento-area mosques met under the same roof for the first time Sunday as they celebrated one of the most important and joyous days on the Islamic calendar." What brought up the Muslim community to perform Eid prayers and celebrations together for those four consecutive Eids was the agreement among the leaders of the mosques at that time to follow ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) in its scientific approach to determine the Eid's day. What a wonderful and short experience we had during those two years, 1994 and 1995 of praying and celebrating the Eid together.
For the first time in the history of Sacramento, sisters participated actively in SALAM activities and made presentations to the Family night audience. Both men and women were dressed modestly and sat in the same hall with two sides, each group occupied one side. All activities of SALAM have been financed by individual contributions. The financial statements of SALAM have been audited by an independent CPA every year since its inception in 1987.
Bright Spots in the life of SALAM
The Year 1990
In October 1990 two Muslim families contributed $200,000 to SALAM, each $100,000 as seed money toward acquiring an Islamic Center for SALAM. I thought a number of families would follow suit in their contribution so we could establish the Center in short time. During 1991/92, $ 25,000 was contributed toward the Center. Some members in SALAM's management wanted to purchase anything, even a warehouse, with the funds available to start religious activities. Others, including myself, wanted to start from scratch to build an Islamically-designed Center in a nice area that all Muslims would be proud of. My criterion for the quality of anything we buy was that "The House of Allah must be better than the house of anyone of us." Thus we had to wait until Allah so Wills.
The Year 1993 and 1994
Early that year, the Board of Trustees wanted to test the Muslim community concerning their feeling toward establishing SALAM's Islamic Center. On April 30, 1993 we held the first fund-raising dinner at one of the best hotels in town. I was apprehensive about how much contribution would be made that evening. To my surprise, contributions reached $35,000 and a Muslim came to my table and whispered in my ear saying: "I'll match this evening's contribution, dollar for dollar, and keep my name confidential." That matching of funds made the total contributions to SALAM's Islamic Center $70,000, the biggest contribution to an Islamic cause in one event in the Sacramento history. The management of SALAM was pleasantly moved because of this community response. On the following day, I ran across the brother who matched the contribution and I asked him what motivated him to make such a donation. He answered: "First of all I was disappointed at the amount of the contribution last night. I thought the community would and could contribute more. Second, I have been pleased by the professional way SALAM is managed. Furthermore, SALAM has been the only Islamic organization in Sacramento that had consistently been conducting independent audits of its financial statements by a CPA every year."
In May 1993, SALAM had $300,000. Elation was the proper word to describe our feeling. We believed that we had the support of the community for the Islamic Center project. We started immediately looking for a piece of real estate property as a good site. On June 18, 1993, we closed the escrow on the purchase of a 2 1/2 acre piece of property with 2 houses on it for $325,000 for the Center. It was a miracle; the price was excellent and the location was ideal because it is located in front of the biggest community college in Sacramento, American River College.
We did not lose any time. In October 1993, we started the new SALAM Weekend School, Adult Education, and the Family Night program at the newly acquired property. We also started the tedious process of obtaining the "Use Permit" from the County of Sacramento to establish an Islamic Center with places for Islamic education and a Mosque. Many Muslims volunteered to work on the detailed plans required by the County for the Use Permit. We spent the remaining of the 1993 and 1994 working diligently with the County agencies to plan and implement what was needed. The plans were designed by Br. Rafat Alafranji, an Arab American architect. They were made to be implemented in three phases to go along with the availability of funds. Late in 1994 we started planning for the hearing to be held by the County's five members' "Project Planning Commission" whose charge is to grant or deny use permits. We knew in advance that some neighbors were against the project. We had to plan for the hearings very carefully to counter any objections against granting us the Use Permit.
The Year 1995
On January 9, 1995, the "Project Planning Commission" unanimously granted SALAM the Use Permit. This was done in spite of a number of neighbors spoke against the project. What a beautiful hearing it was! It was about diligent Muslim teamwork carefully planned under the guidance and blessing of Allah. Three well known religious leaders spoke on behalf of Muslims and SALAM; an orthodox Jew, a Catholic priest, and a Lutheran minister spoke convincingly in our favor. They were members on the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Service Bureau of which I have also been a member, working together to make the Sacramento community a better place to live in. American spouses of Muslims spoke eloquently about how their children should have the same opportunity to learn about their religion as those from other faiths. Some neighbors articulated very well the rights of Muslims to have their own place of worship. We established good working relations with the American River College and one of its officials spoke on our behalf during the meeting. I was so happy to listen and to see Muslims plan and organize their efforts, and get things done by following the Qur'anic verse which states: "And Say; Work, and Allah will surely see your work, and His Messenger, and the believers..." (9:105)
The Year 1996 (The 10th. Anniversary of SALAM)
The beauty of being involved in this type of Islamic project is that there is no end in sight. You finish one stage to find another one in the waiting, and you are very anxious to proceed. This is the true feeling of every Muslim on the SALAM management team. We did not spare much time to enjoy the granting of the Use Permit. We started right away to get the necessary building permits for constructing Phase I. It is another lengthy process to meet all the requirements for construction. That process took the whole year of 1995. Again, many Muslims volunteered with time, money, and effort for the project.
The work on Phase I started in June 1996 and was completed at the end of summer. The cost of this phase exceeded $250,000. A Muslim family contributed $100,000 toward Phase I. We were $40,000 short, but two supporting families loaned the amount to SALAM. We had an open house on September 8th. to show the Muslim community the new look of SALAM property with the new parking facilities, landscaping, green iron fence with two gates, and the new basketball field. A new sophisticated library and a new media center are also established and will be used by Muslims and the public. What a blessing from Allah that the completion of Phase I coincided with the 10th Anniversary of SALAM.
The Years 1997-2002 (Planning and Construction of Phase II)
No time was spared to start planning for the construction of Phase II. This Phase II of SALAM Islamic Center is a multi-purpose building to be used for Islamic education for our children and for religious and social meetings to accommodate for the needs of our community. It also included all the parking places built around the new building. At the end of 1996, $100,000 was donated by a family as seed money for such planning. The efforts for fundraising started right away through the annual dinner banquets in October of every year. By the end of the year 1999, SALAM has raised over a $1,000,000. Based on the availability of such an amount, the decision was made to get in touch with contractors, architects, and civil engineers for designing the detailed construction plans.
The Project Team for the construction of Phase II consisted of M. Asghar Aboobaker as Project Manager and Rafat Alafranji as the Architect for the Building and the Master Plan Design. The Interior Design Team was M. Asghar & Nasreen Aboobaker, Rafat Alafranji, Lisa Bates, Suzana Malik. The Project Committee included M. Asghar Aboobaker, Metwalli B. Amer and Mahmoud Eltorai.
The Board of Trustees selected the construction team. The contractor was Buntain Construction, Inc. The architect was Gordon Rogers & Company, Inc. The civil engineering was JTS Engineering Consultants, Inc. The plans for construction started early in 2000 and it took almost a year to get the detailed construction plans approved by the County of Sacramento.
The actual construction of the Phase II building and parking started in April 2001 and was completed in early 2002. During the construction, SALAM Weekend School moved to Davies Hall at the American River College.
Phase II was named "SALAM Community Center". The first function in the new Community Center was the prayer and celebration of Eid-ul Adha on Saturday, February 23, 2002. That was the DAY for the dedication of the Center. It was a graceful feeling to use this new elegant building for the first time for one of the two holiest days in the Muslim Calendar, Eid-ul Adah. I had deep appreciation to Allah and a great feeling of internal happiness to lead the Eid prayer and to deliver the Eid khutbah.
The size of the building is 15,000 square feet with two stories and a multipurpose hall, conference room and classrooms in the two stories for Islamic education. The architecture plan of the building is a tasteful combination of East and West. It borrows the Renaissance's window rhythm of arched and square windows on the first and second floor respectively and banded with exterior colored stripes reminiscent of the Middle Eastern Islamic architecture of the Mumlook Dynasty era. The building is topped with metal green roof representing the popular Islamic color and yet projecting contemporary California architectural style. The interior style including skylight and color scheme is from present era California buildings.
The building is utilized for SALAM's Weekend School and Afternoon School. It has seven large classrooms, which are divided to make up to 13 smaller classrooms. There is a large conference room to be used for Friday night programs and meetings. It has a room to temporarily house SALAM Library until its permanent place is built with Phase III, the Mosque and other attached facilities.
The building has a 3,500 sq ft. hall with state of the art conferencing and presentation facilities for more than 450 people and dining capacity of more than 280. SALAM has purchased beautiful round dining tables and comfortably padded chairs for the hall rental. The facilities are available for community religious and social events with a full commercial kitchen. They are available for business and educational conferences and seminars with breakout conference rooms available. The rents for use of the facilities are market competitive.
The cost of the building, parking and landscaping reached $2,500,000. This amount was made available by private contributions except $700,000 was obtained through interest free loans from few generous members of our community. Most of these loans need to be paid back during 2002-2004. You can help by donating to SALAM to pay off these loans. There are still classrooms available, which you can pay for and dedicate to your family, or your loved ones, as Perpetual Charity (Sadaqah Jariah).
We did not waste any time after the building became in a usable condition. The Weekend School moved to the new Community Center on March 17th, 2002. Surely, it was nice to come back home again to SALAM new facilities after almost one year of renting the facilities at the American River College. The Afternoon Islamic School, teaching our children Qur'anic reading, Arabic language and Islamic studies, started on April 16th, Monday through Thursday, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
SALAM appointed an Administrative Assistant who is at SALAM every day in the afternoon. The Assistant is handling renting the facilities, office work, and other responsibilities. Rental rates are relatively cheaper than comparable places in Sacramento County. If you need information about renting the new facilities, please call (916) 979-1933 or fax your questions to (916) 979-1002. SALAM has also a modest bookstore. If you need a specific book on Islam, please call the same number.
By opening the new Center, the people at SALAM are contributing to the Islamic education and the social well being of the Muslim community. After we pay off the construction loan, SALAM plans to start the full time Islamic Elementary School and a Daycare Center. The full time school needs seed money to start quality education. If you wish to contribute for such a noble cause, the Islamic education of Muslim children, please contact the management of SALAM.
I wish to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Management of SALAM, to express my deepest appreciation, with sincerity in my heart, thoughtfulness in my mind, and a strong feeling of God's presence in our work, for all those who have supported this new Islamic landmark, the new SALAM Community Center.
Broadening the Management of SALAM
When SALAM was founded in 1987, there was a crisis in the management of the two mosques in Sacramento at that time. To avoid similar crisis and to secure continuity in the administration of SALAM, the management followed the model of non-profit, tax-exempt organizations in this country. The Executive Director had a wide range of duties and responsibilities, similar to those of the Chief Executive Officer of a company. In the absence of the Board of Trustees, he was given the authority in the Bylaws to act in its capacity. This authority secured the continuity of running the organization effectively during a conflict between the Board and the Executive Director. This happened once when the Board resigned in August 1998 due to personal frictions. The Executive Director assumed the responsibility of managing SALAM until March 1999 when a new Board was installed. In addition, the Executive Director had much say in the slate of the Board of Trustees to be submitted to the Advisory Council for approval each two years. As you can see, the Executive Director was much protective of this young organization on the expense of broader and more consultative management. That proved to be a wise decision during those early years of building up the organization and securing its continuity.
Now SALAM is a stronger and more viable organization. It does not depend on one person. It has many stakeholders who are heavily involved in its activities and well-being. It is time for SALAM to broaden its management and develop a large base of supporters.
During the second half of 2002, the Board of Trustees and the Executive Director spent considerable time in studying bylaws and in serious consultation in how to open up SALAM for broader management and broader base. We reviewed some bylaws of other organizations with long experience in running bigger Islamic centers. After careful review, the Board of Trustees adopted new bylaws that achieved such an opening up in management and in opening up for those who wish to be closely associated and actively involved with the organization.
The new bylaws require the expansion of the Board of Trustees into nine members. It opened its doors to three types of members. Active members have the right to vote in General Membership meetings. Associate members have the right to vote after one year from their admission to membership. Honorary members are selected by the Board of Trustees because of their support and services to SALAM, but they do not vote and they do not have to be Muslims. A nominating committee nominates 15 Muslims to the General Membership to vote for 9 Muslims to serve on the Board of Trustees. 10 members can nominate an active member to be added to the list of nominees for voting.
Under the new bylaws there are provisions for the appointment of an Administrator who runs the daily affairs of SALAM and a Religious and Social Coordinator to take care of the religious and the social affairs of members of SALAM.
The new bylaws and the new system of management is effective at the beginning of the year 2003.
Now what is next? A Full-time Islamic School and a Mosque!
Phase III is the Islamically-designed Mosque. The emphasis of SALAM is on Islamic education for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Mosque, which is another 15,000 square feet, will be surrounded by classes, reading rooms, audio and video rooms, library and other service facilities. We expect many non-Muslims to visit the Islamic Center facilities to learn about Islam, especially students from across the street at American River College. There will be a second floor (gallery) in the Mosque for sisters' prayers and meetings. If you see and examine the Mosque plan, you will find out that it is the most beautiful and sophisticated design in many places, with a dome on the top. If funds were available, we could start right away.
Conclusion: Passing the Torch
With the start of the year 17 in the life of SALAM the organization is very viable, and gets stronger every day. In 16 years, its equity in the balance sheet reached $ 2,770,000 and is growing; thanks to the many generous contributions of many supporters of SALAM. We came along way when I used to spend a lot of time on the phone recruiting people to serve on the Advisory Council and the Board of Trustees. Now I receive requests from Muslims wishing to serve. With this attitude, SALAM no longer depends on one person or a group of persons. The torch has been passed to a group of young American Muslims, not ethnocentric although belonging to many ethnicities, dedicated to serve Islam and the Muslim community through this vital organization. Thanks to Allah for inspiring many dedicated Muslim professionals to work for His cause. I expect one of those Muslims will write about the achievements of Muslims through this young organization, SALAM, on the 20 years in the life of SALAM in the year 2006.
May Allah bring us together as a community of associated Muslims, give us the vision to realize the importance of SALAM projects to the Islamic education of our children and to their children, provide us with the urge to pay Zakah dues to purify and bless that which Allah has entrusted to us, and grant us the means and the strength to accomplish the Muslims' will in our generation, in the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. Amen.
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MIM: The terrorist ties SALAM chairman Metwalli Amer were unquestioned and he was given a 2004 ethnic media award for his services to the community in setting up SALAM. Now Amer can add jailed Al Qaeda connected Imam Adil Khan to the list of Jihadis he has hosted.
( It is worth noting that the fundraising visits of international terrorists Al Zawahiri and Omar Abdul Rahman to Sacramento took place in the late 1980's and the early 1990's. SALEM was founded in 1987.)