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Pakistan Day with the Pakistan American League (PAL); Uniting America: Building Bridges, Not Walls

On Saturday, April 1st, our first event took us to the Signature of Solon where we celebrated Pakistan Day with the Pakistan American League (PAL) whose mission is "to promote Pakistani culture, strengthen relationships within our communities and support purposeful endeavors locally and in Pakistan."

We did some research and learned that Pakistan Day (actually March 23rd) is a national holiday in Pakistan commemorating such events as the passing of the Lahore Resolution in 1940 and the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1956.

Even though we were late in making our reservation, Ms. Uzma Rahman, the President of PAL, still welcomed us and told us that the response for this event was so great that it was moved to Solon from the Brecksville Community Center so that more people could be accomodated.

On this day, we heard a fine speech from Mr. Ansir Junaid, the CEO of PWC International which, according to its website, is a full service Supply Chain solution company based in Independence. We introduced ourselves to Mr. Junaid who, as we found out, has known Ms. Margaret W. Wong for years. Mr. Junaid, who first came to Cleveland from Pakistan to attend college, paid tribute to those who contributed to his success (particularly women such as his mother and the person who interviewed him for a pivotal job and could have disqualified him right away for forgetting to bring his resume but did not) and made known that he believed that we are all part of a community and, therefore, we must constructively assist each other.

He encouraged young people to find out what their passions are and use them as a key to success and, subsequently, urged parents to be supportive of their children during this process particularly their daughters because the place of women in the corporate world is thankfully expanding. He expressed his admiration for young people and spoke of how fortunate he was that two of his nephews work for him because they all learn for each other.

Another speaker was our friend Dr. Mansoor Ahmed who spoke of plans for a Pakistan Garden which will be located on MLK Drive adjacent to the Lebanese Garden. Dr. Ahmed said that the Pakistan Garden "will reflect and symbolize the cultural and historical richness of our country, for the world to see."

As Dr. Ahmed and the other planners now envision it the features of their garden will include four thematic gardens each of them representing the provinces of Pakistan and, to be sure, there will also be "well-designed engraved structures that will display the history of Pakistan, the names of our founders, and our noble laureates."

Also present at the PAL celebration was Ms. Sheila Crawford, President of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation, who told us that the committee working towards the creation of the Pakistan Garden has only been in existence for a short while but she was very impressed by how much they have already accomplished and, indeed, looks forward to helping them bring their plans to fruition.

Besides Dr. Mansoor Ahmed and his wife, Nazima, several people that we knew were present at the Pakistan Day celebration including Mr. Pierre Bejjani, Mr. Masroor Malik, and Imam Abbas Ahmad. We saw all of these people later on Saturday when we tabled on behalf of "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" at the Cleveland Chapter of theCouncil on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) 15th Annual Civil Rights Gala that took place at the Embassy Suites on Rockside Woods Road in Independence.

There were several other information tables including those of artist Mr. Ahmed Ghareeb, Bella Models, 2 the East Creations, Cleveland Peace Action, Bean Pie Heaven, and, naturally, CAIR's own table consisting of very concise information regarding its work to ensure equal rights for all.

We gave away two copies of Ms. Margaret W. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" as well as information to several people including a woman who was a naturalized U.S. citizen but still concerned about traveling abroad these days due to the recent Executive Orders of President Trump. Also our good friend Ms. Wyn Antonio smiled as she selected one of our pens so, as she said, she will always think of us.

We commended Ms. Hala Sanyurah, the volunteer coordinator, for keeping things organized and our needs fulfilled; at least twice during our time tabling a young volunteer came up to us and asked if we needed help in any way.

Another young person who did well that night Mr. Ahmad Deeb, the emcee for the evening, who kept the program moving along. He started off by saying that there was nothing so beautiful than a room "full packaged" with those who stand for justice and unity.

Frankly, we were so full from eating great food at the Pakistan Day celebration that we chose not to eat too much at mealtime but we sat down with Mr. George Koussa, our colleague from "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" and listened to the speeches which were nothing less than very worthwhile. Among the speakers were:

***Dr. Ahmad Banna, the President of the Cleveland Chapter of CAIR, who stated the theme for this year's banquet which was "Uniting America: Building Bridges, Not Walls!" and said that this "reflects the crossroads we are facing as a nation and as a community." Dr. Banna noted that during CAIR"s 15 years of existence it has "fielded thousands of phone calls for service, we have given hundreds of media interviews, and we have offered panels, seminars, and forums on a variety of of key topics to more than 10,000 people. We have built a reputation as a regional clearinghouse for issues related to Islam and Muslims."

***Ms. Julia Shearson, the Cleveland Chapter's Executive Director, who said, "At CAIR we believe that we can counter the voices of hatred with a unifed voice that promotes peace, justice, and the dignity of all humankind. We must stand together as neighbors and freinds to build bridges toward the kind of America our children expect and deserve. Let us break through the walls of peril and travel the high road toward a positive future." Later in her speech, Ms. Shearson contended that "there is no more crucial time than now to stand firmly for the universal principles of our faith. Whether it is protecting the rights of women, children, immigrants and minorities; supporting fair wages, environmental justice, and equal opportunity for all; and promoting peace and justice in the world, Islam has a beneficial message for humankind."

***Mr. Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director of the Minnesota Chapter of CAIR, who noted that he, himself, immigrated to the United States from Somalia with his family in 1993. Thus, as he saw it, being in the United States is an amazing experience because we are a home to people who came here from five different continents. He acknowledged that recent years have been tough for Muslims due to incensed Islamophobia coupled with increased amounts of bullying and hate crimes and believed that the entire community must rise up to combat this regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Mr. Hussein then expressed optimism because, even though there was trouble, there was also an outpouring of support and went on to urge all of to donate money and/or become more active. Moreover, he encouraged to study history which will tell us that ethnic groups have often had a tough go so what is going on at this time is nothing new; in fact, he recently gave a presentation after which a man of Irish descent came forward and told him that what Mr. Hussein was describing once happened to his own people years ago. He closed on another upbeat note as he told a story about a small Muslim child who expressed determination to someday run for the U.S. Presidency after Dr. Ben Carson said that a Muslim shouldn't be President. "If you are a Muslim, this is your country," proclaimed Mr. Hussein, "and CAIR has your back!"

***Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Director of Outreach at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center started off by gloriously contending that "each new wave of immigrants has made America better!" As for himself, Imam Johari maintained that his ancestors were brought here as part of a "forced labor program" (i.e. slavery) without any pathway to citizenship until the 13th/14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. He went on to talk about the value of an independent judiciary particularly when the U.S. President "overreaches his authority" and thus it was important to support CAIR for the challenges it can wage in the courtroom. Consistent with what we have been hearing over the last several months, Imam Johari pleaded for us to work together, as hard as this may be, to restore America to its rightful place as "a beacon to the world" so that we can live in a place that provides "liberty and justice for all!"

***Professor Daniel P. Tokaji from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University was certainly no stranger to discrimination since his father and his grandparents were placed in an internment camp during WWII. He said that "this is why I do what I do." Accordingly, his biography in the program notes read that "his scholarship addresses questions of voting rights, racial justice, free speech, and the role of the courts in American democracy." Professor Tokaji sincerely believed that we will survive the years of the Trump presidency but he was worried about what will happen 40 years from now when his children were his age before addressing the long term effects of political polarization and economic inequality which, according to his research, often go hand-in-hand. He displayed a slide which contained the assertion that the sudden collapse is unlikely but "more plausible is the incremental deterioration of the three essential components of constitutional democracy" which are legitimate elections, free speech rights, and the rule of law" which formed the basis for his powerful, stirring talk. As several others had done in the course of the evening, he praised the attendees of this gala stating that "I am inspired to be here with all of you."

We didn't realize it until we arrived at the CAIR Gala and looked at the program notes but a person who we admire very much was the honoree for the evening. And that person was Ms. April Stoltz who we have known for years due to our involvement with the Westshore Unitation Universalist Church. Ms. Stoltz was honored with the I-CAIR Solidarity Award "for helping to dispel stereotypes by creating understanding empathy and friendship among diverse peoples" through the founding of the "Teatime for Peace" program which was first introduced at the Westshore church in February, 2016 and proved to be so successful that six more were conducted in Northeast Ohio.

We, ourselves, have attended two of these programs in which people of diverse backgrounds and faiths sit down at a table (as one would do during teatime) actually have some tea (or coffee with perhaps a dessert included) and talk about the similarities and differences of their beliefs; at the end of their time together, the participants frequently discover that they have more in common than what they thought. We were thrilled when our friend Ms. April Stoltz was honored because while we and others talk about bringing people together, Ms. Stoltz actually does it.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC