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American Muslim

Pakistan Link – September 1, 2006

American Muslim Voice’s Annual Convention

By Abdulrahman “AR” Rafiq

Newark, CA: The American Muslim Voice (AMV, www.amuslimvoice.org) hosted their annual convention at Chandni Restaurant in the heart of the high-tech industry of the Silicon Valleyon August 20. The theme of the event was: “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Heroes.”                     (Picture shows the AMV team at the convention) AMV team

Indeed, the all-day conference was about ordinary people, like John and Bev Titus who suffered a great loss when their 28-year-old daughter Alicia Titus, a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175 hit the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001. They are member of the September 11th families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an advocacy organization founded by the family members of victims of the heinous 9/11 attack on the United States, our beloved homeland. 

These are the true heroes extraordinaire. To lose a loved one is like a piece of your flesh being chopped off. Despite the loss they have suffered, John and Bev bear no ill will to Muslims. The “victims are on both ends of the gun”, Azim N Khamisa, father of the 18-year-old Tariq Khamisa who was murdered in January 1995 eloquently put it. Both his son Tariq and Tony, the 14-year-old African American teenager who shot Tariq are victims of society. Similarly, in the case of the 9/11 tragedy we have victims at both ends of the gun barrel.

Mr Khamisa has forgiven Tony; in fact he has offered him a job at the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF) after his prison sentence is completed. TKF is a non-profit organization committed to defeating the continuing cycle of violence amongst the youth. Further, Azim and Tony’s Uncle Ples are good friends, working together to curb youth violence.

Both Khamisa and the Titus’s have pledged their life to promoting peace and progress in the world. They mentioned that they don’t want other families to suffer the same loss as they did. They are against wars of all forms; John and Bev have spoken out against the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The rest of the conference followed a similar theme, centering on how the real heroes are the people like you and me. The program was divided in two segments. In the morning session Adeel Iqbal, AMV’s board member served as the emcee. The afternoon session was hosted by our very own, Jaiza Television show, executive producer Omar Khan.

Both the afternoon and morning sessions portrayed an informative lineup of speakers. Like Stacy Tolchin, an immigration attorney who spoke on what to do if the FBI knocks on your door; she said, “Just because you don’t have anything to hide doesn’t mean you don’t need a lawyer. When you get a lawyer, in most cases the FBI loses interest in your case.” Further, she informed the audience that if they are approached by the FBI, they should call the National Lawyers Guild hotline at (415) 285-1041. “Remember you have a right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present,” she said.

The AMV Team: Hats off to the AMV executive team for arranging a superb convention; Samina Faheem Sundas, Khalid Saeed, Reshma Yunus, Syed Mohsin, Adeel Iqbal, Shahid Chaudhry, and Nosheen Khan, to name a few, worked tirelessly to put together this event which was well attended by Muslims and non-Muslims alike sowing seeds of peace, seeds which essentially are mere ideas. Ideas which will produce lasting results —eradicating distrust from the hearts and minds of humankind. Creating a world where, when one looks at a man you see your brother in him, and when one looks at woman you see your sister in her. This is a world the AMV team has envisioned. May seem impossible now, but don’t underestimate the power of an idea.
The idea that we are one human race, with all our infinite diversity; to live in a world where your race, creed or national origins are insignificant, and you are not judged based on any external factors. Instead you are looked upon as a fellow human being, an inhabitant of the small lonesome planet Earth. An utopian idea it may sound, but it is within our grasp. All it requires is a little self-effort and courage on the part of a few and the many will follow.

To conclude the daylong event, Azim Khamisa left the audience mesmerized and inspired with a quote from his journal, which essentially summed up the whole conference. “Sustained goodwill creates friendship…sustained friendship creates trust…sustained trust creates compassion…sustained compassion creates peace.” And this is the aim of the American Muslim Voice to create lasting peace and goodwill in the world.

(The author is a technology professional in the Silicon Valley, a freelance write and journalist for the Pakistan Link and Newsline, and an OPEN Silicon Valley Operating committee fellow.)