Phone: 650-387-1994 Email: email@example.com Website: www.amuslimvoice.org
3rd Annual Convention
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Heroes
Profiles & introductions of speakers
By Adeel Iqbal
American Muslim Voice convention 2006, which almost coincides the fifth anniversary of the ghastly tragedy of 9/11, brings together an amazing group of peacemakers: those who have experienced grief first-hand and channeled that grief into action.
It takes a strong man to show mercy. It takes an even stronger man to take an evil act and turn it into positive action.
Azim Khamisa is one such man.
Instead of seeking revenge for the shooting and subsequent death of his son, Tariq Khamisa, in 1995, Khamisa has chosen to forgive. He has joined hands with Ples Felix, the grandfather of the 14-year-old responsible for his son’s death, and developed an organization that aims to transform
America’s gang culture.
“To honor my son I though I had to do something more positive,” Khamisa says. “Instead of grieving, I was advised that I should give.”
For Khamisa, doing good deeds with Tariq in mind is a matter of honoring his son.
“As a father , you want to do something for your child,” he says. “Quite frankly, it still gets me up in the morning.”
Khamisa’s foundation, the Tarik Khamisa Foundation, preaches nonviolence and has reached more than 8 million students in 12,000 schools across the nation through a documentary created by Channel One News, more than 3,000 students via in-school presentations and more than 56,000 students in San Diego through a live program.
“By doing good dead with kids, we are definitely improving the lives of our community and the lives of our children,” Khamisa says.
The author of “From Murder to Forgiveness” has traveled the nation sharing his story and spreading his message. Aside from teaching how to reach peaceful resolutions, Khamisa takes time to educate the general public about his faith.
“As a Muslim I’m taking advantage of the podium to educate the American public about Muslims.”
Khamisa says Muslims today have a duty to educate their fellow citizens.
“We need to show the compassionate face of the Muslim faith,” he says. “I think we need to really raise the volume both nationally and internationally.”
The first step is outreach and acceptance.
“If I and Plesi can come together, then we all can do it. We need to demonstrate these high values,” he says. “I talk about him like we are brothers.”
Bio of Khamisa: Azim N. Khamisa is Chairman, CEO and Founder of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF) and Sovereign Capital Markets, Inc. He is a successful international investment banker, advisor and consultant with over 30 years of experience. He has conducted business ventures in Africa, Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Mr. Khamisa was educated in England in Mathematics & Finance and is a well-traveled multi lingual United States citizen and resides in La Jolla, California. Mr. Khamisa serves on the Board of Directors of various for profit and non-profit boards.
TKF (www.tkf.org) was founded by Mr. Khamisa in memory of his 20-year old son Tariq, who was murdered in January of 1995. Mr. Khamisa reached out in forgiveness to the grandfather and guardian of his son’s killer, Mr. Ples Felix who now serves as Vice Chairman of TKF. He has committed his life to defeating the continuing cycle of violence amongst the youth
Mr. Khamisa is a highly regarded and respected leader in the San Diego community and nationally for his exceptional leadership in finding innovative solutions to prevent youth violence. He delivers keynote addresses on many topics at a variety of local, national, and international venues. He has spoken at over 200 conferences worldwide. He is an award- winning author of the book: Azim’s Bardo - From Murder To Forgiveness – A Father’s Journey and a three CD series called Forgiveness – The Crown Jewel of Personal Freedom.
Challenges to a culture of peace begin at home and in the communities that we all live, says Dot Maver.
For the executive director of the national Peace Alliance, the opposite is true as well: Cultivation of a culture of peace also begins at home.
That is why Maver advocates a federal Department of Peace which would establish a Secretary of Peace in the President’s Cabinet and research, articulate and facilitate dissemination and adoption of nonviolent alternatives and solutions to domestic and international conflict.
The department would provide community-building assistance and information-sharing systems to city, county and state governments in their efforts to prevent violence, curb drug and alcohol abuse, and limit school and gang activity.
The benefits of such a change in our current system are unimaginable. But it is exactly what we need today in our increasingly tense global environment, Maver says.
“It does not matter what our race color or creed, it is a time to connect with one another, not to convince on another,” Maver says. “It is a time to build together a culture of peace on behalf of our children so that they may live together on a sustainable planet.”
Maver has taken her message around the world and says more than 20 countries are advocating for a Department of Peace in their homelands.
Maver and American Muslim Voice Executive Director Samina Faheem Sundas will be hosting a joint workshop at the annual Islamic Society of North American convention this year. The focus: peace-building technologies and how to make peace-building profitable.
Maver says Sundas is like her “sister” and one who understands cultural differences with a goal of learning from one another.
By traveling to California from the east coast to speak at the AMV convention, she hopes to support and further the work of AMV.
The Peace Alliance invited Samina Faheem as a speaker at our 2005 annual DC Conference and she was very well received by the over 500 attendees. She was also a leading voice at the Congressional Briefing and many commented on how pleased they were to learn of AMV's peace building efforts nationally and the call for cooperation among all people.
Life has revealed a series of parallels for Grace Shimizu, the daughter of a Japanese immigrant who was abducted from Peru and interned in the U.S. during World War II.
There are similarities between actions taken by the US government in today's "war on terror" with those of the government which targeted "potentially dangerous enemy aliens" during the days
of the Second World War, she says.
She has made it her mission to educate the general public about the human impact of US government policies and actions on individuals and communities who are scapegoated as "the
enemy." Her work underscores the importance of all people in the US --both citizens and immigrants -- to work together to prevent the repeat of that shameful part of US history when civil and human rights were violated in the name of "national security."
"It's hard for people who are being persecuted to speak out. That's why it's so important that other communities stand by their side and do so," says the Japanese American activist. "As
our communities organize for peace, truth and justice, there is so much we can learn from each other and this nation's history."
Shimizu is proud that Japanese Americans were among the first to step forward in defense of Muslims, South Asians, Arabs and other targeted
groups just after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Significantly, she says, it was the younger generations who took the lead. Within days of the attacks, young Japanese Americans in the San Francisco-Bay Area made the first call for a peace vigil in which hundreds from
diverse communities participated.
"It is very moving to realize that lessons from our own historical experience has been taken to heart by many Japanese Americans, that this important part of our community's legacy is
being passed on to the younger generations," Shimizu says. "During World War II, people for
the most part did not step forward in our defense when we were herded off to camp. We see it as part of our responsibility to speak out and support our neighbors who are now being targeted as "the enemy" and persecuted."
Still, Shimizu says, much remains to be done. "Now more than ever, we should be reaching out to each other, building diverse networks and forging real working relationships together,"
she says. "We are all so busy and there are so many issues and crises that come up. It's hard, but we have to find a way to make it work. If we don't, history has shown us what a sorrowful future may be in store for our children, our communities, our world."
Shimizu and American Muslim Voice Executive Director Samina Faheem Sundas recently traveled to Washington, D.C. as part of a community delegation from The Assembly on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (AWRIC). The AWRIC was a moving 2-day public testimonial event which documented the little known stories of former WWII internees from the German, Italian, Japanese and Latin American communities as well as of Arab, Muslim and South Asian Americans in the aftermath of 9/11. They delivered the AWRIC Report and DVD to members of the US Congress and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. These educational resource materials are now available to the public.
Bio of Grace Shimizu: Grace Shimizu is the director of the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project*, coordinator of the Campaign For Justice: Redress Now For Japanese Latin Americans!**, project director of the groundbreaking traveling exhibit, “The Enemy Alien Files: Hidden Stories of World War II ***, and project coordinator of the Assembly on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.****
Ms. Shimizu has extensive campus and community experience spanning over 35 years. She is a leading spokesperson and organizer for the preservation of the WWII experience of former Japanese Latin American internees and the redress struggle to hold the US government accountable for the violation of their human rights. She has also worked with various community and women's organizations, organizing projects and events around such issues as affirmative action, peace and international solidarity, human rights, racism, and women’s oppression.
Ms. Shimizu received a B. A. degree in American Studies from Occidental College (1974-Los Angeles, California) and a J. D. degree from Hastings College of the Law (1977-San Francisco, California). She was born in Berkeley, California and is the daughter of one of the oldest survivors of the Japanese Peruvian internment experience who passed away in 2004 at age 97.
Imagine losing your child in a plane crash on Sept. 11.
Try to feel the pain, anger and hatred you might feel.
And then picture yourself taking that pain, anger and hatred and transforming it into acts of peace.
In summary, this is the life and work of John and Bev Titus, the parents of 28-year-old flight attendant Alicia Titus who died on United Airlines Flight 175 five years ago.
“After my daughter was killed, I was deeply saddened as the grief was just overwhelming,” says John Titus. “But, I immediately realized that her death was representative of some much deeper, underlying reasons, beyond the oversimplification put forth by our president.”
Her death was the starting point for a shift in John Titus’ life.
“I began my search for truth and knew that I must continue on with Alicia’s legacy of striving for peace and justice in our world which seemed so devoid of both,” he says. “I began speaking wherever I could, newspaper articles and other publications, TV appearances, documentaries, local and national groups.”
The goal has been to preach the transfer of channeling grief into peace.
The parents’ joined September 11th Families for Peace Tomorrows and have sent members to Afghanistan, Iraq, Madrid, London, Japan, South America and other areas of the world to try and promote a culture of peace among families of victims. Their work has also been widespread across the US and Canada.
For Titus, it is a matter of duty: The world needs to understand that the response from the government to the events of Sept. 11 is not right and that taking life in response to life already taken is not a proper solution.
“Personally I feel that this is my life’s calling, to try and do what I can to bring about healing, understanding, peace and justice,” he says. “If I can make a difference in some small way, that gives me hope.”
I admire AMV for their courage and conviction and believe that if each of us acts upon the love in our hearts guided by God's truth to make this world a better place (as they are), we will change the world. I met Samina Faheem at the Department of Peace Conference last year and was very impressed with her vision, compassion and courage. She affirmed in me that which I have always known, that we are all deeply connected in ways that we cannot possible fathom and that we must work together for good and truth with the same conviction as those who wish to
destroy all that is good and true.
John and Bev Titus are keynote speakers at the third annual American Muslim Voice conference and fundraiser commemorating the 5th anniversary of Sept. 11 on Aug. 20.
Bio of John Titus: John is the father and Bev is the mother of Alicia Titus, a 28 year old flight attendant killed on UAL Flight 175 on September 11th, 2001. They are members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an advocacy organization founded by family members of victims of the September 11th attacks on the United States, consisting of over 200 family members and 4,000 supportive members. John is on the Speakers Bureau and the Steering Committee for this organization. The members are united in their cause in seeking peaceful alternatives to war and to raise awareness of the resultant killing of innocent civilians. Recognizing their common experience with all people similarly affected by violence throughout the world, through their grief, they strive to break the cycle of violence for current and future generations.
Professionally, John has worked in higher education for 20 years in different capacities of administration including Director of Counseling and Dean of Students. Recently, he moved from administration to a faculty position as a counselor. He also worked for 9 years in the mental health system as a Mental Health Therapist, working with adolescents with emotional problems. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio and for the Swedenborg House of Studies located at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. John states: “I believe that in the entirety of life, we are all intricately connected in ways we will never understand; thus, what we do for or against one another we do also to ourselves.”
Bio of Bev Titus: Bev is on the faculty at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan where she teaches for the Women’s Resource Center and for the Continuing Education program in the field of health, fitness and well-being. As a loving mother of a child killed by violence, she has a message of compassion advocating peace and nonviolence for our world that is filled with violence.
John and Bev are the parents of four wonderful adult children and two beautiful grandchildren. They have been married 33 ½ years and live near Ann Arbor, Michigan. Both grew up in Ohio and moved to Michigan in 1998.
Sitting on the sidelines is not an option for Shirin Sinnar.
Whether it is a young Muslim teen getting questioned by the FBI in school or an elderly immigrant resident being deported to her homeland, Sinnar is always ready and equipped to put up a strong fight.
The young Bay Area resident originally from Maryland, toils every day to ensure that civil rights are upheld in the United States. That is her charter as an attorney for the Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sinnar, a Stanford Law School graduate, tackles cases of post-Sept. 11 discrimination against Muslims, Arabs, South Asian and other targeted communities by employers, landlords, schools, businesses and other private entities.
“My goal is to ensure that the rights that we value as Americans are actually lived and practiced,” she says. “It is important to stand up for the rights of these communities.”
The Muslim woman, a current board member for the Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers, also spends countless hours educating the Muslim community about their rights as citizens of this country and the general American public about who Muslims are.
“The Muslim community continues to have an important role in educating our society at large about who we are and what we stand for,” Sinnar says.
But she adds that Muslims should not limit themselves to Muslim issues.
“There are plenty of social justice issues that we should be engaged in, whether it’s poverty and homelessness issues or environmental causes. There are a wide range of issues that are beyond our own community that we should be actively involved in.”
The Muslim community is not mature enough to take these steps yet, she says.
“We still do not know enough about how to get engaged. It’s something we haven’t learned to do.”
Still, Sinnar, who has studied at Harvard University and Cambridge University, is proud of the increase in activism among Muslims.
She commends American Muslim Voice for its community-building efforts, specifically citing the outreach efforts of Executive Director Samina Faheem Sundas.
Americans responded in very different ways to the events of Sept. 11 five years ago.
Stacy Tolchin, an immigration law attorney, took it upon herself to educate citizens about their laws.
She saw that many Americans did not know their rights and decided to change that situation person by person.
Tolchin, who currently works for Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale LLP in San Francisco and received her juris doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, has led multiple immigration clinics for various non-profit organizations and primarily researches and writes briefs before the Executive Office of Immigration Review and the 9th
She monitors post-Sept. 11 legislation and agency actions.
”People that have committed their lives to human rights work are the people we see targeted as terrorists,” she says. “It’s about education and recognizing that these people we’ve seen are our neighbors, our friends and our family. We need to remember that we are dealing with human lives here and these are not black and white issues.”
Bio of Stacy Tolchin: Stacy Tolchin joined Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP, in September of 2001. Before joining Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale Ms. Tolchin worked for the International Institute of San
Francisco as the Citizenship Project Coordinator, clerked for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, and led immigration clinics at several non-profit organizations. Ms. Tolchin primarily researches and writes briefs before the Executive Office of Immigration Review and the 9th Circuit, and is involved in monitoring legislation and agency action
generated in response to the September 11th tragedy. Ms. Tolchin is currently a member of the board of the International Institute of San Francisco. Ms. Tolchin received her juris doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles and received her Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College in 1996.
Sana Jubayli is an eyewitness to the Israeli carnage in Lebanon. Spent her 21st birthday on a US military flight while being evacuated from Lebanon where she was doing an internship at a local NGO, Dar al Amal, in Beirut.
She says: The summer was going great, I had many plans for a great summer. When the bombing started
Sana Jubayli was born and raised in Lebanon, a dual American Lebanese citizen.Her mother is from the Bay Area, father from Lebanon.
Graduated from high school in 2003 and came to CA for university. Spent one year studying Spanish in Chile. At present she is majoring in Organizational Communication at the CU Chico, CA.
Sana Jubayli did an internship last summer at Amnesty International.
She is now planning a fundraising event for Dar al Amal on Aug. 23, 2006.
Lt. Ehren Watada
Lt. Ehren Watada says: "I refuse to be party to an illegal and immoral war against people who did nothing to deserve our aggression!" He believes that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it."
Lt. Ehren Watada is the first commissioned US military officer to publicly refuse orders in support of the illegal Iraq War. Having already attempted to resign his commission in protest, he announced his refusal to deploy to Iraq on June 7, 2006.
Watada has not been classified as a conscientious objector since he is not against all wars, just the current war in Iraq. Prior to his refusal to deploy to Iraq, Watada had offered to serve in any other part of the world. He also offered his resignation but in the end all his offers were rejected and Watada decided to refuse his deployment in Iraq.
Watada believes the Iraq war is not only immoral but illegal and he now faces a possible eight years in military prison and a dishonorable discharge for those beliefs. He is currently assigned to an administrative position at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Like any normal California high schooler, Halema Buzayan always wished for the perfect senior year: a lower class load, college acceptance letters, time to think about what the future holds and leadership in campus clubs.
Unfortunately, things did not pan out the way she imagined.
Instead, her year was crippled with court appearances, public scrutiny and heaps of emotional stress.
Halema, at age 16, was arrested in her own home on a school night by Davis police officers a little more than one year ago. The youngster was wearing her pajamas when the authorities paraded her out of her home while her
parents and younger brothers watched in shock and horror.
“It was a really really tough year,” Halema, now 17 and on her way to UC Davis this fall, says. “It was a roller coaster of emotion.”
The story began when the Buzayan’s were accused of a hit-and-run collision a few days before Halema’s arrest. There is no indication that the Buzayan’s were involved in the accident, but they agreed to pay more than $800 in damages.
When they thought the case was over and done with, police barged into the Buzayan’s home days later and took their daughter, telling her to confess that she was the driver of the vehicle when she knows she was not.
“Nobody can figure out why,” says Halema’s father, Jamal Buzayan, who works as a research scientist at UC Davis.
That is precisely what he is trying to find out as he and his family battle against the Davis police and the local city and county authorities who continue to pursue this case relentlessly against Halema even though the evidence is clearly not in their favor.
“You cannot just single a family out and just get away with it,” he says. “People will do something about this. The community cares and they will not just stand by and watch.”
His family’s story is one of strength and spirit. It has been more than a year since the incident and they are still in the middle of the turmoil.
“I don’t see this just as my fight but I see this as the community’s fight,” Halema says. “It is my responsibility to stand up.”
The Buzayan’s will share their testimony of the incident and how it has impacted their family on August 20, 2006 at the American Muslim Voice convention at Chandni Restaurant in Newark, California.
For more info on the Buzayan's struggle see: http://justiceforhalema.org/
Omar Khan (Master of ceremony of the AMV convention):
Is the Founder and Executive Producer of 'Jaiza', A leading production house involved in various media related projects, currently featuring a weekly talk show that airs on GEO TV. He is also the Co-CEO, Netpace Inc. a silicon valley based IT Company that provides software consulting services & is the leading developer of wireless application platforms and commercially run applications. Prior to starting Netpace he was at Cisco Systems in various IT related capacities and prior to that at Pacific Bell Dir. He is a 16 year IT veteran of the Silicon Valley.