Congressional candidate Abu Ghazalah
seeks support of Muslim community
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
NEWARK, CA: The American Muslim Alliance Bay Area held its monthly educational forum on Dec. 1, 2001 at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark. Main theme of the forum was "Getting ready for city, state and federal elections in 2002."
The speakers, included Ms Traci Becerra, Deputy Registrar of Alameda County, Ms. Jo Cazaneva, District Director of Congressman Pete Stark who
briefed the audience about the requirements for running for federal, state and city offices. Other speakers were Ms. Zya Mohsin and Ms. Hannan Rasheed, the AMA Activists and Ms. Hina Azam, Lecturer of Islamic Studies.
Mr. Maad Abu-Ghazalah, a candidate for the US Congress from District 12 spoke about the difficulties and problems he is facing in running for the congress
office. He said that “my own community people are telling me that you have no chance because your opponent, Mr. Tom Lantos, is in office for 20 years. You are wasting energies of our community. You better drop out from the race.” (Maad Abu-Ghazalah speaking)
However, Mr. Maad Abu-Ghazalah said that he was not discouraged and was determined to run because just showing up at the election is half the battle. He was of the view that the American Muslims should actively participate in the election process that will make their voice heard. “I have not yet started my campaign but I am already on national TV. That is a success for me and my community.”
He said that the Muslim community should make alliances with other communities because we have lot of common things with other communities.
Mr. Maad Abu-Ghazalah, who has Masters in Computer Science from and J D Law Degree, is a former president of the San Francisco Chapter of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. He will start his campaign in January.
Ms. Samina Faheem, National Coordinator of the AMA, speaking on the American Muslim participation in politics, said that a majority of the Muslims in America are highly educated and very productive members of the society but nobody knew who they are because they shied away. However, she added, that in last year’s election the Muslims made a difference by voting en bloc. “We have to keep that momentum particularly, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks we have no choice but to be active as our civil liberties are being curtailed and we cannot afford to watch from the sidelines.” (Samina Faheem is speaking at the candidate forum)
Ms Traci Becerra, Deputy Registrar of Alameda County, told the audience that vote registration is very important and eligible voters should register before the last date that is February 18, 2002. She said that the qualifications for registered voters are: You should be a US Citizen; You should be a resident of California; You should be at least 18 years old and You must not be in prison or on parole for conviction of a felony. Ms Traci Becerra explained the vote registration process as well as the voting process. She said that electronic touch screen voting system may be introduced in 2004 or 2006.
Ms. Jo Cazaneva, District Director of Congressman Pete Stark, said that given the current circumstances, it is more important for the American Muslim Community to involve in politics. She suggested that the parents should encourage their children to participate in the political process through internships and taking children to the polling booth. Ms. Jo Cazaneva related her own story when as a child her father used to take with her at the time of voting. She said that it left an impression on me. “We are delighted that you are encouraging youngsters to join the Youth Tank of the American Muslim Alliance. Some of the youngsters are in our office, they are getting first hand knowledge about what is happening in Washington.”
Ms. Jo Cazaneva advised the Muslim community to join Alameda County Central Committees of the Democratic and Republican Parties. She said that the county central committees are springboard for state and national politics. She urged the audience to vote at the local, state as well as the national level. She said that as you probably know that the African Americans were not given the right to vote until very late in the process of the development of our constitution. She said her parents took voting very seriously and argued that you should vote just to honor those who had struggled and even sacrificed their lives so that we can vote.
Mrs. Hannan Rasheed, the Executive Secretary of the Palestine-American Congress and member of the Arab Culture Center and the Arab American Institute, said that the Muslim Community should become part of the decision-making process. She pointed out that the Community is already late in involving itself in the political process and it has to work hard to catch up with other groups. She said that the American Muslims have to run for offices and “if we do not run then we should support, with vote and money, the right candidate who are sympathetic to our cause.”
She said that the American Muslims should come out of their cocoon to be able to assimilate with the local culture. Mrs. Hannan Rasheed said that some people think that we betrayed our country by settling in the U.S. “This is untrue You can be the best of both. I am proud to say that I am a Palestinian-American and I have best of both cultures.”
Mrs. Zya Mohsin, a social worker and an AMA activist, said that it is important to participate in local committees and commissions because it may affect the community in a negative way. “Let us be part of the local committees and commissions so that we can impact decision making process as well as you will know what is going on in your town.” She complained that unfortunately our community members do not apply to become members of the local committees.
Mrs. Zya Mohsin, who was a candidate in last year’s election for the Milpitus District Board members, said that Milpitus is going to built a Peak Generation Power Plant. It is a controversial project because it is a health hazard as well as environmental hazard. But, she added, that most of our community does not know about it because it is not involved in the local politics.
Ms. Hina Azam, Lecturer of Islamic Studies, suggested that the Muslim community should make coalition with other organizations and communities and join their voices. She added that the Muslims should show interest in domestic issues that will indicate how Islam and the Muslims can contribute to the US society. “In the US, we have an amazing capacity to affect the foreign policy towards the countries from which we come but for that we have to work hard,” she added.