Publisher’s note: American Muslims are deeply committed to the well being of fellow Americans, and are making efforts to be involved in building that one nation under God. Here is a good summary of one such meeting organized by the Pakistani American Association in Washington, DC. The notes were prepared by Dr. Jamshed Uppal.
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The Pakistani American Association Community Meeting
“Our Future in Current Environment”
Held on Saturday, March 18, 2017, 2:00-4:30 PM
Chevy Chase Community Library
Meeting Notes prepared by Dr. Jamshed Uppal
Mr. Sabir Rahman: Made opening remarks emphasizing the need for community organization.
Mohammad Siddique: Recalled that after 9/11 we have had held series of meetings with the larger community and public officials, and have had positive response. The question is how we move forward? Many of us like Mike Ghouse and Tufail Ahmad are doing excellent work. We should support our organizations. There is need to organize our efforts and engage more people especially our younger generation. Communication across the community needs to be improved. We should meet every 2/3 months to exchange ideas. We should also look at the upcoming county elections. There will be four open positions and we need to identify candidates who will support our community. Best would be to put up a candidate from the community. Engaging in the political process will lead to recognition of our community’s needs. There are other organizations which are willing to work with us.
Jamshed Uppal: In the short run we need to defend our rights through legal means; hence, we need to support organizations like the ACLU. In the medium term 2-5 years, we’ll benefit from strengthening our civic and political organizations. In the long run we’ll need to evolve a Pakistani-American identity and engage in the local and national issues. It is the responsibility of the civic organizations to help our community to develop an American identity by easing the process of integration and assimilation while maintaining our cultural and social heritage.
Mike Ghouse: The Democratic Party lost the elections by ignoring the genuine grievances of a large segment of the society, the “deplorables”. He narrated his experience of attending the CPAC meeting and engaging with some attendees. He thinks this kind of engagement with the “opponents” helps to empathize with them and is needed to tone down the rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants.
Jane Williams: Been here for over 22 years but now feels discriminated against. Hatred has trickled down. She narrated an incidence where she was put down as a Pakistani and as a “Muslim”. She wants to know how to respond to such attitudes.
Saqib Ali: Very disgusted with racism; we should not appease racists by trying to understand them. At the national level we need to follow leaders like Keith Ellison for our rights. But we should first focus on local issues. There is not much discussion on local issues. An example of local issues is the CVE program; we need to press the county to de-fund this program. Another issue is the BDS movement; some MD delegates are seeking legislation against the BDS movement. We need to organize and push back against it.
Tufail Ahmad: Emphasized the need for communication across the community. Pakistani American Association needs to work on this issue. We need to show up at meetings with the county/state officials in large numbers; political leaders like crowds. We need a platform where we can draw on the community from VA, DC, and MD. Our members must interact with other communities and become involved in the elections.
Ali Imran: Narrated how his magazine seeks to highlight positive stories from the community. He emphasized the need for community service and humanitarian work. We need to put forth a positive narrative; for example, a Pakistani-American individual made a $15 million grant to Norte Dame. We also need to encourage our kids to go into disciplines such as journalism, public service and academia. He lamented that neither Muslims nor Pakistani-Americans are organized; they are scattered.
Siddique: Need to expand and actively use an email group. Saqib has created one.
Raheil Rahman: Volunteered to work on the email list. Agrees with Saqib; must have specific goals on local issues.
Jawaid Bashir: Have been very disheartened with the current hateful climate. He is struggling to find a way to fight back. He asked; why do people hate us? He is worried that the international events have negative impact on us.
Anwar Goheer: Feels very much disappointed with the recent developments. We are considered outsiders even if we have lived here for years. Euro-centric attitude prevails. White people migrate to the USA and are immediately accepted as America. Our children are born and raised here but still are not accepted; still are treated as outsiders.
Parvez Uppal: There are multiple answers to the problem that we face. All answers are correct. But realize that not all Americans carry hatred for Muslims or foreigners. Overwhelming majority is for a multicultural, tolerant and diverse society. We need to work with the majority and get involved with the political process. We need to show votes to the politicians and they will be happy to listen.
Siddique: We are foremost Americans and must engage in the local issues.
Parvez Uppal: The immediate concern is that if there is another terrorist incident, the administration may seek scapegoats. There seems to be an effort to blame judiciary for any such incidence in the future, and thus use it to curtail our civic rights.
Jawaid Bashir: I am not sure if our efforts are yielding any results. There should be some way to measure the impact of our service.
Mike Ghouse: The way to move forward is to integrate. Talking to people who do not agree with you is not appeasement. We need to be concerned about all issues, and try to understand the stand point of others.
Tufail Ahmad: There are several grant possibilities with the county that we should pursue. Some of these can provide resources to engage our youth.
Jamshed Uppal: We should keep in mind that we live in a beautiful country with beautiful values. So there is no need to feel disheartened. We need to reaffirm our faith in these values and push forward building a case on these values. Others will then join us in our struggle.
Sabir Rahman: Ask each individual to name one issue or concern that is the most important for him or her.
- Siddique: Feel acute depression since elections.
- Jamshed: How to motivate our community to become active.
- Parvez: Organization to fight for our rights; like ACLU.
- Jane: Muslim registry.
- Raheil: Find common causes with others;
- Saqib: BDS, fight Muslim ban
- Imran: Need to learn how to make noises; media reach out
- Mike: Coalition building, integration into American community
- Goheer: Improve communication within the community
- Jawaid: outreach to our neighbors.
- Tufail: Seek grants from the county/state * Develop relationship with churches.
- Mike: Build a calendar of community events.