Candidate of the week

Mohammad Arif— the other immigrant

In the first debate of the recall campaign, Arianna Huffington claimed she was the only non-Republican immigrant candidate for California governor, but that’s not true. “Maybe you can bring this matter to her attention and correct her,” said a soft-spoken Mohammad Arif in a telephone interview last Friday. “I would like her to understand that it’s not true.”

Before coming to America, Arif was a student and organizer for the Pakistan Peoples Party, which he described as an “anti-fundamental” group working on behalf of common people.” He emigrated from Pakistan to America in 1991, and now, at age 34, he runs his own gift importing and exporting company in Culver City.

“America has given me a lot,” said Arif, who will appear on the ballot as an independent. “It’s given me more than I deserve, and so this is my chance to serve California.”

So far, Arif hasn’t gotten much American press, but go to his Web site ( and you’ll find a BBC write-up in Urdu in which Arif’s photo is featured prominently alongside a photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone(!); elsewhere on his site, Arif lists a wide range of platform points, from the release of incarcerated battered women and the repeal of the three-strikes law for nonviolent crimes to the elimination of racial profiling and tax loopholes.

“I want to work for common people, for working-class people, for everyone regardless of their background,” said Arif. “Poverty is a curse. I want them to be out from poverty. Any economic reform, any social reform, anything we can do. I want to work with all leaders. I want to work with everyone.”

In the meantime, Arif said he’s been getting some unusual correspondence of late. “I’ve gotten e-mails from people saying that you should change your name; I don’t want to change my name,” he added with a laugh. “I have to tell them that I am part of America, I am part of California. I am your brother. No matter if you have different opinion, different religion, I’m your brother; I’m there for you. We are all equal. That’s my heart, you know. That’s my goal.”