Reportage

Muslims In California

213-214

 

Location

California is located on the western coast of the United States of America. It is bordered by the state of Oregon to the North; Nevada to the northeast; Arizona to the southeast; the Mexican state of Baja California to the South; and by the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Area and Population

The total area of California is 423,970 km2, which makes it the third largest state in America as per its area. It comprises 58 districts. Its capital is Sacramento, and its largest city is Los Angeles. According to 2016 estimates, the population of California is 39,250,017. Races in this state include 42.3% White, 36.6% Hispanics, 13% Asian and 6.2% Black or African Americans, in addition to other races.

Christians mount to 60% of California’s population, 27% is unaffiliated with any religion, and 2% is Muslims, while the rest belong to other religions.

As for languages, English is spoken by 57% of the population, and it is the official language of California; 28% speak Spanish and 2.8% Chinese. California’s currency is the United States dollar.

Geography

The state of California has the most wide geographical diversity in the United States. It spreads from the Sierra Mountains in Nevada along the Pacific Ocean reaching the desert located on the southeast of the US, known as the Mojave Desert. It also extends to the northwest of the US, specifically to the Redwood forests.

The Central Valley is in the center of California. It lies between the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and it has two big rivers, the Sacramento River in the North and the San Joaquin River in the South. This valley is the most arable land, and therefore, it is the most productive of agriculture crops around the world. It also has the highest point in the United States which is the Whitney Mountain and the lowest point known as the Death Valley.

The plant cover forms 40% of the state’s area. Apart from that, it contains eight thousand lakes and the highest waterfall in the American Continent, the Ribbon Fall (491m).

Climate

The climate in California is diversified. It is mostly Mediterranean. California witnesses a cold rainy winter and a humid summer. Annual rainfalls are greater in the north of the State than in the south.

Mountain ranges in the State have an impact on the climate since rain falls mostly in regions facing the west of mountain slopes.

Eastern mountain zones witness little rainfall making them characterized by a desert climate with a hot summer and a cold winter.

History

The first European to ever discover this coast in 1542 is the Portuguese Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, followed by Francis Drake in 1579. This state was under the control of the Spanish in the 18th century and was called Alta California. Early in the 19th century, Mexico and Alta California together formed the first Mexican empire that turned later into a republic. In the middle of the 19th century, specifically in 1846, California became independent. Four years later, this state joined the United States of America in 1950. During the 20th century, this state went through great evolutions which made it one of the most important and featured states of the United States of America.

Form of Government

The government of California is the governmental structure of the state of California as established by the California Constitution. It is composed of three powers: the executive power comprising the state’s governor and other staff along with the constitutionally voted bureaus; the legislative power composed of California’s Legislature comprising the Assembly, the Senate and the Judicial body that contains the Supreme Court and the Lower Court in California. There is also a local government composed of districts, cities, private locations, and school districts, not to mention the governmental entities and bureaus that work independently based on the Constitution, the Law, or the General Law. Statewide, initiatives, legislative referrals, and referenda may be on the ballot.

Economy

The economy of California is large enough to be comparable to that of the largest of countries. Its gross state product  (GSP) is the largest in the United States. California is responsible for 13% percent of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP). California’s GSP  ranks 9th in the world, and its economy is almost equivalent to that of Italy.
Agriculture is the mainstay sector in California’s economy, because of its fertile soil that facilitates the cultivation of enormous kinds of crops. It is also considered a big mine of gold, and it currently includes all kinds of huge industry in all domains such as petrol, cement, the manufacture of electronics, internet, cars and other big industries.

It is known that California gained its universal fame because it is the center of “Hollywood”, the motion picture and television movies big industry which contributes significantly to its economy. The state is also the seat of many global companies such as Kodak for photography, General Motors for military and civil industries and the huge cinema production companies. It is also the headquarters of Google, the huge Web search engine located in the Mountain View City.

Main cities and touristic landmarks:

Los Angeles: is considered the biggest city in the state for its area reaches 1290.6 km2, and it is located on the southwest of California. On the level of American cities, it comes in second place after New York in terms of population; a population of 3833995 resides in it. Los Angeles shores overlooking the Pacific Ocean extend to Santa Monica Bay and San Pedro, what makes it the third city in the world with the longest sandy coasts after Rio de Janeiro and Paris. Disneyland Resort is one of the city’s landmarks. It is situated in Anaheim and has many characters inspired by Disney movies. At first, it was only an amusement park, but later it expanded and came to comprise lots of shops, restaurants and horseback-riding arenas. One of its main characters is Mickey Mouse. Hollywood, the film industry, is considered the historic center for American cinema and actors.

San Diego: The city of San Diego is located south of California and is the 9th largest city in the United States. It contains many touristic landmarks.

Napa Valley near San Francisco: is for those who want to enjoy the beautiful nature and peace, away from the cities’ noise and pollution. Napa Valley is known for its breathtaking landscapes and green covered vineyards and has lots of restaurants and luxurious hotels.

Death Valley National Park: is one of the desert valleys located on the east of California in the Mojave Desert. It hits the record of the highest temperature ever known on earth.

Big Sur Coastline Bridge: The bridge extends 90m along Central California’s coast with the most beautiful landscapes. The coast is near the foothills of Santa Louisa. This bridge is visited by almost 3 million drivers every year to watch the amazing landscapes.

Lake Tahoe: It’s one of the biggest lakes around the world which geologists think they have been formed two million years ago. It’s surrounded by lots of high mountains and is considered one of the most important touristic attractions. It has many activities and entertainments in winter such as snowboarding and skiing – there’s a snowboarding resort near the lake – and in summer, there are many water sports such as swimming, diving, canoeing and boating.

Golden Gate Bridge: It’s one of the most beautiful and magnificent touristic landmarks of California, and it is one of its main touristic attractions. It extends along San Francisco May more than a mile. Tourists go to take a walk on the bridge, to ride bikes, or to walk, to watch the landscapes surrounding the bridge, and to take photos.

Yosemite National Park: One of the best resorts in California’s state, Yosemite National Park covers an area of 760,000 acres in the eastern part of Central California. It contains lots of beautiful natural waterfalls and many breathtaking landscapes in addition to wildlife, fauna, flora and some historic buildings.

History of Islam

Unfortunately, there are no historic studies that talk about the arrival of Muslims at California and their spread there; consequently, we will talk about the arrival of Muslims at the USA in general. The first Muslim immigrants to the United States in America came in small numbers but their number started to grow gradually.

Contrary to European immigrants, Muslim pioneer immigrants did not arrive at the USA to take it as a permanent residence for them. They were seeking trade and collecting wealth to return to their homelands. However, under the impact of success and the capability to accommodate with the environment, many of them preferred to stay in the USA. Later, immigrants started to make groups united by familial kinship besides neighborhood and interaction with the country of emigration. By and by, they organized themselves there as a response to the social events, pressures, and challenges they confronted on the wake of their migration, what forced Muslims to seek means to assert their identity – the most important of which was building mosques and planting the first seeds for Islamic social and cultural societies and institutions.

Several sources mention that Muslims arrived at the United States before the arrival of Columbus. In his book “Murouj Zahab” which was written in 339 A.H. / 956 A.D., Massoudi cited a book under the title “Ikbar Azzamman” in which there is a reference to journeys made by the Muslims of Cordoba via the Atlantic Ocean, “the sea of darkness”. In his exploration voyages, Columbus made use of the journeys made by Muslims via the Atlantic to the new world. He recorded in the journal of his tours that American Indians talked to him about previous commercial ties with African Muslims.

Moreover, the book “Islam in America” which was printed in Istanbul in 1311 A.D. mentions that the first man who started to spread Islam in the USA is the American convert Alexander Resell who used to work as a consul in the Philippines. But he later resigned from his post and dedicated his time to spreading the Islamic Call. For this effect, he issued a magazine called “The Islamic World” besides writing several other books.

Muslims Today

Despite the fact that the United States Census Bureau does not collect information about the religion of the residents, the general number of Muslim civilians is about 8 million according to several senior researchers who are interested in religions in the US besides Islamic US organizations in 20 states most of which are in the mid-west and the south, as Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity.

As for California, it is home for no less than 700 thousand Muslims; in fact, the number may as well be higher. In 2013, data was provided on the population of every state by the United States Census Bureau. Moreover, statistics on religion were issued by the religious record registration, the archives of the researches interested in the Islamic religion, and Pew Research Center which is a nonpartisan institution which works in the domain of publishing information and facts on the causes, stances, and orientations for every state. According to these statics, Muslims form 2% of the population in the State of California. They mainly gather in Southern California which is home for about half a million Muslims besides Los Angeles, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Orange County, Santa Clara County, and Modesto City. It is the home of the largest Indian Muslim community and a community of Muslims who came from the Middle East and North Africa. The number of Muslims is considered to be high as compared to the population of the state. As such, the country is the seat to many mosques and Islamic institutions.

The number of Muslims in the state is soaring rapidly as members of the various social classes – especially the black – are embracing Islam. Another reason is migration. In fact, in recent years most of the immigrants to this country have been coming from Islamic countries. Moreover, reproduction is also a main factor in increasing the number of Muslims as the birthrate is likely to be increasing. This is not to overlook the role played by students, who come to continue their education, in supporting Islamic groups, correcting their concepts, and teaching them the ideology of Islam and its true values. David Rosen from Harford Institute said that Islam is the fastest growing major religion in America though its influence is still limited.

There spread in the California restaurants and shops which offer halal food for Muslim residents. Moreover, many Arab, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Syrian restaurants dot the various cities of the state. In fact, Muslims in California live a normal life and practice their religious activities in a normal way especially in the Holy Month of Ramadan when prayers are performed in mosques, and collective Iftar dinners are held to enhance intimacy and love among Muslims, besides marking several religious occasions.

Islamophobia

No doubt the repercussions of September 11 events are still purchasing Muslims wherever they are especially in the USA. In fact, Muslims in California suffer from religious violence which threatens their civil security. Asserting this fact, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has released its 2014 Civil Rights Report in which it says that it took in 993 hate crime complaints and of those, 444, or nearly half of the total, were from Orange County. This was also published by the US Vocative website.

The office of the Public Prosecutor further took in 44 hate crimes in San Bernardino County in the same year and 38 near Riverside.

In an interview with Reuters News Agency in Los Angeles, the head of the Muslim community in the State of California said that three mosques in California received anonymous hate mail threatening that President-elect Donald Trump will cleanse the USA from Muslims what stirred fear among believers.
As letters calling for genocide of Muslims were sent to multiple mosques, Hussam Ayloush, executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-Los Angeles, said in a statement: “The hate campaign targeting California houses of worship must be investigated as an act of religious intimidation.”

Ayloush also recommended that the three mosques cooperate with the local police administrations to investigate these letters as hate crimes.
On a parallel level, two Muslim girls wearing hijab who study in San Diego State University and San Jose State University in California were assaulted and maltreated.

Doaa Abdelrahman, president of the college’s Muslim Student Association, believes the attack was related to the election and Trump’s campaign. She said racism has always existed, but now “it’s fueled by Trump.”

Hijab

The hijab still poses a crucial cause for Muslim women in California. However, another move was taken represented in the launch of a play in California under the title “Lifting the Veil”. The play tackles the status of the America women who wear hijab especially in the light of the mushrooming of the so called Islamophobia phenomenon.

The playwright and the actor Rhohina Malik – who is a scriptwriter from Indian origin and a member in the US Theatre Syndicate – tried to shed the light on the importance of dialogue with the other and enriching this dialogue with what benefits all sides.

In a statement she made to US Herald Times, Malik said: “I hope this play would contribute to dialogue with the other. I am acquainted with the arguments which will follow the show because it will be really rich.”

She added that the play focuses on topics such as mercy and tolerance asserting that she was inspired in all what she wrote from the teachings of the Holy Quran.

She highlighted that the tickets for the show were sold in a record time what asserts that American long for hearing the Muslim voice in the current circumstances. She added that the play sheds light on assaults made against women wearing hijab in the USA, warning against segregation and stereotyped ideas about Muslims which pose a real danger.

It is worth mentioning that Malik had won several prizes for her work through which she calls for putting an end to segregation besides promoting the status of women in the society.

Schools

The presence of an Islamic community in California with a considerable number of members contributed to a variation of diverse Islamic schools. Every school has its own distinctive characteristics:

Weekend Vacation Schools: Keeping with the real life of the Muslim community in California, the children of Muslims there are given a chance to receive Islamic education during weekend vacations. Schools with limited capabilities as per classes and educational curricula were annexed to mosques and Islamic centers. Such schools were initiated in 1359 A.H. (1940 AD) on the hand of Sayyeda Zahraa Mohammad. It does not have a definite curriculum; it rather used to teach the basics of Islam.

Summer Camps Schools: This kind of seasonal schools humbly contributes to the Islamic education of Muslim children. The three-month-summer-vacation – which is not a bad duration – provides an opportunity for the children of the Muslim community to receive a part of Islamic education. Children also are trained on the true Islamic conduct, and they practice their religious rituals in a practical way in places designed for this end.

The Islamic Parochial Schools: The student is taught in these schools an Islamic curriculum besides the general educational curriculum. Such schools solved many educational problems and exerted industrial self-help efforts in California and other states.

Some Islamic Institutes and Schools: Institute of Islamic Studies – Los Angeles: It was established in 1975 A.D. with the aim of providing Muslims with intensive courses on Islamic studies. The center set an Islamic educational system for children, and it also founded a curriculum for Islamic education and the Arabic Language.

The Sister Clara Muhammad SchoolsThese schools were started by the Islamic-American in most of the states. They are distributed on 200 mosques which belong to African Muslims, and they welcome all students without any discrimination. Most teachers are African Muslims, and their curricula include courses on Islamic studies and the Arabic language.

Public Schools: They are found in areas of high Muslim populations. Muslims there managed to obtain an approval to teach the Arabic Language in public schools where the overwhelming majority of the population is Muslim.

California Islamic University (CIU): It constitutes a program of study that is catered to Muslims living in the West. It draws on the wisdom and experience of traditional Islamic institutions worldwide.

Mosques and Islamic Institutions

California comprises more than 500 mosques. Mosques and praying rooms are set in three categories:

  • The first category includes mosques which were built on the Islamic style.
  • The second category of mosques is tantamount to praying places in Islamic centers. These praying places are usually rooms in the very edifice of the Islamic center.
  • The third category of mosques is praying places for Muslims in American universities. These places are supervised by the Muslim Students Association in the United States or MSA National.

Islamic Center (Qibba): The US Los Angeles Times reported that a large Islamic center was built on Rowland Heights. It was totally funded by local Muslims donations rather than foreign donors.

It also mentioned that the project includes a school, a health clinic, three libraries, and a mortuary. The Islamic Center of America was inaugurated in 2013.

The Islamic Center in Los Angeles: A Muslim woman donated the cost of the land for this project. Its value was more than 100 thousand dollars. It is located near the dorms of student married couples in the University of South California. The municipality of the city gave its approval for constructing the project under tough conditions including: not to use microphones, to use direct lights, and to instantly commence in building the project.

The architectural plans were set into effect, and the project cost 165000 dollars.

The project is made of four levels. The first comprises a mosque, a meeting room for ladies, and administrative and teaching offices. The second floor has multi-purposes. It may be used as a hall for lectures or a school, a praying room for ladies, two libraries, and a mess hall. The third and fourth floors are dorms.

The center offers social and cultural services. It also holds Islamic seminars and marks religious rituals besides helping Muslim students and spreading the Islamic Call.

Muslim American Society: is a nonprofit organization founded in 1993. The society is a dynamic charitable, religious, social, cultural, and educational, organization. It includes about 1000 members, and it has about 60 chapters in 35 states across the United States. Its aim is to build an Islamic community which is able to defend its rights, serve the fair causes, and be influential in decision making.

The Islamic Center of Southern California: is a mosque and Islamic cultural center in Los Angeles. It is one of the largest mosques in Southern California with thousands praying there every Friday.
The center was founded in 1952 A.D. and at the time was the only mosque in the Los Angeles area. The center, along with mosques across Southern California, has been hosting an Open Mosque Day in which non-Muslims can visit the mosque for a tour and ask questions. It was created as a way to improve relations between the local Muslim community and non-Muslims and also as a way to help non-Muslims learn about Islamic culture and certain parts of ideology.

Orange County Islamic Foundation (OCIF): OCIF was established in 1996 as a non-profit Islamic organization to provide the highest quality of religious, educational, and social services to the community in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Its vision is to foster the ideal American Muslim identity that allows the community members to achieve personal and spiritual growth as well as positively impact the lives of our fellow citizens and humanity at large.

It includes a mosque that comprises 400 worshippers.

Malaysian Islamic Foundation in North America (Mifna): MIFNA was formed in 2007 and is a registered non-profit organization based in southern California. The organization is managed by a Board of Directors consisting of volunteers elected by MIFNA members, under the principles outlined in MIFNA by laws.

MIFNA’s website functions as a virtual community where members are able to retrieve and share information about the social and cultural aspects pertaining to their faith including: notification of upcoming events, member news and announcements, and information on Islamic schools, mosques, restaurants, businesses in Southern California. The website is maintained by an editorial team consisting of MIFNA volunteers.

Islamic Cultural Center of FresnoCalifornia

Islamic Center of Sacramento

Muslim Community Center of Greater San Diego

Islamic Community Center of San Diego

Huda Community Center

Islamic Educational Center of San Diego

Islamic Center of San DiegoClairemontSan Diego, CA

Shia

The American Shia community is divided into two groups. The first group includes those who had migrated from the Muslim world to America some 180 years ago, and the other includes those who embraced Islam and then bettered their conversion by embracing the sect of Ahlul Bait (Peace be upon them). Consequently, Shia Muslims could join the US society and enter the fields of commerce via private institutions and shops, and they became an influential element in the Islamic and civil society. They built their own organizations and mosques.

Hejrat Foundation: Hejrat Foundation is a non-profit religious, educational, and charitable organization, in Southern California. It manages several religious institutes including a mosque called “Masjid al-Nabi” (Peace be upon him and his Household) in West Covina, California, and another masjid with the same name in Adelanto. Its mission is to educate Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam; to build unity between all people; and to fill the needs of Muslims and non-Muslims in Southern California in order to improve their standard of living and assist in their economic advancement.
The goals include the establishment of mosques, Islamic seminaries (Hawza), full-time Islamic schools, weekend schools, libraries, Islamic banks, Islamic cemeteries, homeless shelters, free medical clinics, orphanages, and other organizations and services to meet the needs of the growing Muslim population.
Hejrat Foundation is currently working on organizing a Hawza where students can learn, in depth, about Islamic topics. The plans for Hawza call for it to be certified by the state of California for university credits, and to be certified by Hawza of Najaf and Qom. A weekend school has been established in order to better reach goals for teaching basic Islamic education to children. In addition, it is expected to begin classes for adults; both those who want to learn about Islam at a basic level, and those who wish to pursue more advanced levels.
Imamia Education Center: One of the highlights of Imamia Education Center is to teach necessary Islamic education to children in a professional environment
Subjects taught are Quran, Fiqh, Akhlaq, Aqaid and History. The goal is to create a solid Islamic base for the challenges of our children’s future in Western Society especially within the college life. Another aim is to provide a place where children from various ethnic groups can come together and become life-time friends for better future unity and cooperation within the Islamic community. It also offers Youth Program (ages 17 to 30 years) for further education and interaction. Moreover, it offers an additional way for parents to fulfill their duty of providing Islamic education to their children.
Yaseen Educational Foundation: It was founded in 1998 by a group of young American Shia men and women to facilitate the educational needs of Muslim students attending college and to help them to guard their Islamic identity.

Islamic Audio and Visual Center: It issues a monthly magazine, and it is active in the field of publishing and distributing Islamic articles.

Siba Islamic Center: It is an Islamic center that holds Islamic activities including marking religious occasions and giving lectures.

Zahraa Islamic Center: It cares about developing a dynamic society based on the Holy Quran, the Sunna of the Prophet (Peace be upon him and his Household), and the teachings of Ahlulbeit (Peace be upon them).

Al Mustafa Islamic Center: It gives religious seminars, Islamic preaches, and lessons for ladies. It also marks religious occasions such as the birthdays and the martyrdom anniversaries of Ahlulbeit (Peace be upon them). It includes a school for children.

BabUlIlm Islamic Center (BIC): Its aim is to serve believers and to provide education for the young and adults to commemorate all significant events in the Fiq-e-Jafaria. It is the first endowment foundation in Southern California.

There are also several other societies including:

Islamic Cultural Center in Franzo

Shia Institute

Zeinabiyat Islamic Institute

Islamic Educational Center in Orange County

El Hussein Youth Center

Jafaria Islamic Center

Shia League in San Francisco Bay Area

IranianAmerican Muslim Association of North America (IMAN).

Stockton Islamic Library

Institute of Islamic Philosophy and Mystical Thought.

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