Breaking bread, building peace

Sol Collective hosts forums on anti-Muslim bigotry

Nazia Khan is an American citizen who attends Sacramento State. But as a Muslim, she takes some heat for wearing a hijab (head scarf).

“Many times in the community, I get looks and comments, such as ‘What she is wearing on her head is a sign of oppression as a woman,’” said Khan. That is wrong, according to her. “We wear the hijab not as a sign of our oppression but as a symbol of passion for our religion.”

The last time she flew out of the Sacramento International Airport, she says security personnel and fellow travelers treated her hijab as a threat. “I experience treatment as a potential terrorist every time that I travel,” she said.

Khan was one of more than 70 people participating in Breaking Bread, a conversation about the maltreatment of Muslims and people of Middle Eastern and South Asian origin across the United States.

Eric Vega, an ethnic studies professor at Sac State, directed this round-table exchange at Sacramento’s Sol Collective arts center last week.

Among the participants was Bill Camp, executive secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, with more than six dozen labor-union affiliates and 160,000 union members in the capital region.

He urged Sacramentans to fight anti-Muslim bigotry together and to “dig a common ditch” by writing letters to lawmakers in support of Muslim-Americans and workers’ movements for democracy in Muslim nations such as Egypt and Tunisia.

Arooj Ahmad, a Pakistani-American woman and labor organizer who lives in West Sacramento and wears a hijab, said she even had a run-in with an anti-Arab bigot at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.

The Breaking Bread group discussion lasted 90 minutes. Later, people shared a potluck-style meal and talked. A couple dozen folks signed up for an e-mail list to grow this fledgling movement for ethnic and religious justice through dialogue, according to Vega.

Khan plans to attend future Breaking Bread conversations; she said she was heartened by the discussion. “I know that I am not alone in this, because there are people who will stand by me and take my side.”