The Islamic Center of Reseda in Reseda, Ca.was host to an interfaith gathering held this past Monday in honor of the birthday of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. The celebration was organized by the Valley Interfaith Council (VIC), one of the oldest interfaith organizations in California, centered in the San Fernando Valley.
VIC, which terms itself â€˜your bridge to helpâ€™, is a charitable neighbor to neighbor group that specializes in (to name but a few activities) aid to seniors, the homebound, and those suffering from disabling conditions. Muslims are an active part of VIC including membership on the Board of Directors.
Dr. King fought against prejudice and died a martyr for his cause. Muslims in America can identify with the struggle of African Americans against racism and stereotypes as they face Islamophobia and old injustices in new clothing.
The event began with a march from the Islamic Center to the nearby main boulevard. Marchers carried a picture of Dr. King and signs which named the virtues that characterized his life and struggle. Following the return of the marchers, the attendees moved to the main part of the Islamic Center, and the formal part of the program began.
Sister Soraya Deen of the Center was the MC. The event began with a reading from the Holy Quran and a translation.
Los Angeles City Councilman, Dennis P. Zine, and Congressman Howard Berman were introduced. They spoke of the beauty of diversity in the Los Angeles area. They told of Dr. Kingâ€™s dream now largely realized in the diversity that is present in the city and its environs.
Each speaker in addressing the current situation was able to reach back into the life of Dr. King and find a quotation from his speeches that was timely and relevant.
Sister Soraya spoke of the influence that her father had on her as a child. She referenced his devotion to helping those in need and told how that became, for her, a template.
Five young speakers representing the Islamic, Hindu, Bahaâ€™i, Jewish, and Christian faiths read from their holy scriptures with a short commentary on the significance of the reading.
The keynote speakers were members of the Huling family, a family greatly influenced by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. William Huling, Professor Emeritus at California State University Northridge (SCUN), spoke of his childhood in the South at a time when Jim Crow touched adversely the lives of African Americans who lived there. Most members of the audience were too young to remember the civil rights movement, and the battles that movement had to face, and the cruelty of the system that it fought against.
â€œI did not realize that things had been so terribleâ€ said one young woman.
The Islamic Center of Reseda has recently been expanded. It will be open on a permanent basis in June. Many of the guests commented on the beauty of the room in which the meeting was held.
A reception followed the main program. Guests talked excitedly among themselves and praised the speakers and their presentations.