American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) hosted members of the government at its second annual fundraiser on Sunday night at the Great Hall conference center in Germantown.
Mayor of the City of Memphis Jim Strickland, Rep. Dwayne Thompson, Rep. Raumesh Akbari, Mayor of the City of Germantown Mike Palazzolo, and Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley attended the fundraiser.
“As Mayor of Memphis, I’m mayor of everyone,” Mayor Strickland said. “All races, all religions, both genders, and I feel like I have to reach out. Plus it’s the right thing to do, plus I think our city is better off with diversity, and most major cities I would say the same thing. Diversity is what makes Memphis better.”
The government officials each spoke at the fundraiser about the importance of the Muslim Community within Memphis.
Commissioner Billingsley expanded on the theme of the night “Standing up for Justice” with words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, before introducing Mayor Strickland.
“Dr. King said that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter, and certainly tonight this is a time where things are very, very important at the local level, state level, and at the national level.”
Mayor Strickland stressed the reality that there are differences within Memphis, but the desire for safety, education, and jobs is mutual. He talked about Memphis’s value for the everyone regardless of religion or race.
Rep. Raumesh Akbari of District 91, a child of an immigrant herself, made a promise to the audience and advised the youth to never be ashamed of their name or background.
“But I want you to know, that I in my position will do whatever I can to fight against unjust and unfair laws and ignorant rhetoric, and anything that I believe is a threat to your community our community Memphis as a whole,” Rep. Akbari said. “And to the young people in this room, I don’t want you never to feel scared or ashamed of your background or your culture.”
Rep. Thompson of District 96 attributed his win this year to the opportunity for him to support his ideals of equal opportunity for all Americans and freedom of religion.
Despite the backlash they have received from certain Islamophobic organizations whose goal is to spread hate towards Islam, the mayors and representatives decided to attend and continue to support AMAC.
“Because I think anytime you’re seeking justice or moving things forward, you have to be an advocate, and you are your own best advocate,” Rep. Akbari said. “And I think organizations like this should exist because people can see that, there is an organization and they can see it clear enough. And I think, especially in the legislative process, I think everybody has an interest.”
AMAC is a non-profit organization that serves as a bridge for Tennessee Muslim communities and government officials and law enforcement.
After Sheik Yasir Qadhi preached a small sermon, the fundraiser hit its goal of around $80,000 with Imam Anwar Arafat taking the lead, encouraging the audience to donate.
This is the first of three fundraisers across Tennessee; others will be in Nashville and Knoxville.
“I think that it went well,” said Khalimah Azeez Rashada, project manager of AMAC and the organizer of the fundraiser. “With everything going on in society and the hearts of good believers be it Christian, Muslim or Jew they saw the need for an organization to promote freedom, and what our founding fathers stood for-- which is freedom for all religions. And they supported it and everyone was excited to be a part of that movement that AMAC brings to Tennessee.”
Photo by Hira Qureshi
Soyab Malani, M.C. of the fundraiser, thanks Mayor Strickland for his speech.