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INS Registration & Dr. Martin Luther King
Ras H. Siddiqui Sacramento, California USA

Jan. 2003 - It sure was an interesting second week of 2003 in Sacramento, California. Two events took place, which could have been separated in the past, but today seem very much connected. The first was a Town Hall Meeting on INS Special Registration held on January 9 at the spacious facility of Masjid AnNur Islamic Center where over 100 people attended a very informative presentation by community leaders, youth and representatives from the legal arena. The second program was held on January 11, one that celebrated the life and work of the late Martin Luther King Jr. It was attended by over a thousand members of the “Who’s who” of Sacramento and beyond.
The INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) Special Registration meeting coordinated by members from CAIR, Masjid AnNur Islamic Center, Muslim Mosque Association, SALAM, Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Associations featured Attorney Reem O. Awad-Rashmawi a Palestinian-American with much current experience with the Special Registration process. Reem was there with extremely helpful suggestions as to how to approach the INS, where to go, what to bring with you and what to prepare for in case you run into a problem. She even had information on the range of Bail required by the INS and where you are most likely going to be held. Reem was assisted by our local youth activists namely Sister Maren and Sister Wazhma. Another member from the legal community Amir Adil assisted with some of the explanations to questions from community members. The male panel along with Amir consisted of Br. Rashid Ahmad,  Tamer Ahmed and Masjid AnNur President Farouk Fakira.  Not all questions had definitive answers but while attending the meeting, this reporter certainly got an education on the complexity of the issues facing many communities including now Pakistanis in this country. For example: What do you do if half your family is here legally and half is not? What arrangements do you make for all your property/finances if you think that you are going to be deported? Should you give someone a power of attorney to take care of it if you do not return? These are all serious and valid questions, which the perpetrators of 9/11 have forced on (so far) the largely Muslim community here that was once hoping for an adjustment of status. If this process impacts what is estimated to be 50,000 Pakistanis then there is a possibility that at least 500,000 people back in Pakistan will suddenly become a lot poorer and it is certain to adversely impact the Musharraf Regime and its help to the US in the fight against terrorism. At the very least, this is one issue that has now united liberals and conservative within our community here us here in America for the first time.The celebration to honor Dr. Martin Luther King was quite the opposite of the INS Registration meeting. At a very elegant dinner, in the presence of US Congressmen Robert Matsui and John Lewis (Keynote Speaker), California’s Lieutenant Governor,  Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, County Supervisors, City Council members,  Dorothy and Jerry Enomoto (Program Co-Chairs) and a large Inter Faith contingent consisting of a sizeable number of Muslim and Pakistani-Americans (Mr. Rashid Ahmad was honorary Program Co-Chair). The Master of Ceremonies was Dana Howard of local television station’s News 10. The Event started off with the presentation of colors by a Multi Agency Color Guard. Pastor Ephrain started off with the invocation which was followed by the singing of the National Anthem. Of special significance to us was the blessing of the food as the (literally) towering personality of Imam Umar Shareef  of Masjid As-Sabur recited the Surah Fateha and touched us all with a message of peace and universal brotherhood that is a part of the Islamic Faith. It was noteworthy to observe over a thousand people of a number of faiths (Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus amongst them) all showing their respect for the religion of Muslims, as a very tall Black Man proceeded to explain what our religion really is all about. Chaplin Russell, Mayor Fargo and County Supervisor Illa Collin spoke through dinner and special Unity Prayers were presented by a number of very distinguished local personalities including Jerry Chong of the local Asian CAPITAL organization. Police Chief Arturo Vanegas Jr. presented his very moving Hispanic perspective along with Trena Burger-Plaven, Shelton Duruisseau and Jan Scully. For those of our readers who have all heard of Dr. Martin Luther King and his work on civil rights in America but may not have heard of Jackie Robinson who was also honored at this event, here is a brief introduction. Jackie Robinson was the first Black Man to cross the color barrier and play baseball in the Major Leagues in the United States. He was hired by Branch Rickey General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers to play professional ball in 1947, no small feat for a country still divided by color. It took a great deal of intestinal fortitude on the part of both Manager (Rickey) and Player (Robinson) to provide this opening through racial boundaries via sports. And not only did Jackie Robinson pave the way for people like today’s Black athletes  but he gave an entire race much hope. Jackie excelled in both baseball and character. And on this day at this event, the Sacramento River Cats baseball team permanently retired his Number 42 jersey in honor of his courageous feat which can no longer be duplicated. This retirement ceremony was held with the help of Art Savage, President of the River Cats and Branch Rickey Jr. the grandson of the 1947 Manager. A very touching visual presentation down memory lane was also presented to the gathering. And before this reporter forgets, a number of youth were recognized for their services rendered in the local community. It is a matter of pride to report that one was them was a Pakistani-American young lady by the name of Mahvish Khan who not only made her parents proud but made us all appreciate the important role of youngsters in the local Muslim community as a whole.
I had to leave the program a little early, and I missed the presentation of the Robert T. Matsui Community Service award to Dr. William Lee, founder and publisher of The Observer Newspapers. Dr. Lee has been a trailblazer for Black journalism in this country and being a part of the minority media ourselves, we congratulate him for this well deserved honor.
United States Congressman The Honorable John Lewis gave the keynote presentation at this celebration. The program guide describes him accurately. “For more than 40 years, Congressman Lewis has been in the vanguard of the progressive social movements and the human rights struggles in the United States.” Congressman Lewis has had the opportunity to share the podium with Dr. Martin Luther King and was “a leader in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.”
To us in the audience he was a perfect example of the continuation of the civil rights struggle that Dr. King gave his life to and for in this country. 
The program concluded with the singing of the Negro National Anthem, candlelight ceremony and a informative presentation by an Elementary School student. Dr. Dorothy Enomoto presented the closing remarks and Rabbi Mona Alfi performed the benediction.   In closing, one has to point out that the participation of Pakistani-Americans and Muslims in such activities has now become more important then ever. Our own civil rights concerns have become an issue post 9/11. We do not need to be paranoid but it never hurts to be prepared and to learn. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream,” and did something about it in a peaceful manner. The more radical Black Panthers of the time also made their contribution. But history has shown us that it was the peaceful way that succeeded in the long run.  America’s immigrant Muslims today are learning from the Black experience with civil rights. Liberal Pakistanis and Muslims are today seeking out their more conservative co-religionists. Events in America are changing our community in a number of ways. Muslims are learning to adapt to a changing world by making alliances with a number of groups who have fought for their rights here in the past and suffered in the process. But one thing is for sure. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remains an inspiration for all Americans as we honor his memory at this painful point in our history.

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