Salam fall fundraising banquet features comedian Azhar Usman

    By Ras H. Siddiqui,

    Sacramento Area: The Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM) held its Fall Fundraising Banquet at the Citrus Heights Community Center recently. Over 400 people attended the program including prominent members of the area Muslim community.

    SALAM prides itself on being an open Mosque and place of Islamic learning. Its outreach efforts are well-known all over Sacramento and far beyond. But none of these attributes would have been possible without the support and generosity of the area community, and once again they did not disappoint here. Serious thinking, charity and spirituality combined with comic relief (provided by Muslim-American comedian Azhar Usman) made the event a success.

    Azhar Usman in action.

    The evening started off with the customary Quranic recitation by Adnan Syed with a follow up English translation by Muzhda Ferouz. Master of ceremonies Asif Haq introduced everyone to the agenda for the evening and invited SALAM Chairman of the Board Farrukh Saeed to deliver the welcoming address. “We want SALAM to be an institution,” said Farrukh. He added that the mission of this organization should continue for generations. He also expressed pride in the fact that SALAM through its elaborate website ( now had a global reach and shared an email received from the Nederland’s (Holland) that stated that they use SALAM’s very own Imam Azeez’s lectures in their study of Islam. Farrukh also took the opportunity to thank SALAM’s team members and volunteers for organizing and executing this event.

    The SALAM Education Scholarship segment awarded the Professor Ayad Al-Qazzaz Scholarship and the Professors Metwalli & Rosalie Amer Scholarship to four deserving area students. The winners had to establish both need and academic achievement to receive the monetary honor presented to them.
    Speaking of honour, the SALAM Distinguished Award for superior services and support offered to the area Muslim community was presented to the husband and wife team of Arshad and Nadira Alvi. Over the long years of my association with Arshad Alvi and Sister Nadira and the SALAM organization environment, one fact that needs mentioning here is that they have never sought the limelight while doing their work and making donations. That is why it was great to see them on the stage for a change to receive their well-deserved award of community appreciation. Arshad in his humble speech mentioned the importance of giving in this life with the hope to receive Allah’s (SWT) mercy in the afterlife.

    Salam Distinguished Award presented to Arshad & Nadira Alvi.

    After a brief mention of key people present by Asif Haq, an overview of SALAM’s financial position was presented by Farrukh Saeed. One should highlight here that SALAM’s beautiful Mosque still needs to be paid off. The main issue right now is a $900,000 bank loan which needs to be paid by the year 2020. This information set the stage for Imam M. A. Azeez of SALAM to come to the stage and start the fundraiser.

    Imam Azeez received the FBI Director Award in the year 2009. He has been a positive factor in the Sacramento area Muslim community activism for a number of years now and it feels like one can talk to him about anything. On this day he had an injured finger but that did not take anything away from his wit and enthusiasm. In his inspiring speech he touched on a number of issues related to our relationship with God, between ourselves and with our neighbors. He stressed that Allah is very pleased with the happiness we bring to others and the importance of being a catalyst for good in the community. He said that SALAM plays an important role (a place that brings benefit to others) and that is one of the many reasons why it needs our support. At last count over $137,000 was raised at this fundraiser with not all the checks, pledges and cash counted. A fine Persian dinner by Sacramento’s local Famous Kabob Restaurant was served buffet style after the fundraiser.

    The last segment of the evening was comic relief by Muslim-American comedian Azhar Usman. Sporting quite a beard and dressed in camouflage (Fidel Castro style), Azhar took very little time in getting everyone’s attention. This was not this first appearance at a SALAM fundraiser but his material was refreshingly new to the delight of many in attendance. During his almost hour long performance he touched on interesting issues related to various ethnic groups within Islam and some outside the faith. “Don’t Kafirize me man!” was one observation he shared while touching on subjects such as Halloween, Haram is Haram, Harry Potter, Arab men, Latin Women, Pakistanis and Indians etc.


    Azhar spent some time in Egypt (in Cairo to be exact) where he had to struggle to convince people that his name actually was Azhar (Cairo is where the famous Al Azhar University is located). He said that it was like someone in Boston telling people there that their name was Harvard. Another favorite topic of his was how Indians and Pakistanis speak English including his Indian father. “What is wrong in it?” He spoke of the staring problem in the two countries and how south-Asian aunties can converse for a long time while using just three or four Urdu words all translating to “yes” in English. He imagined the problem that someone (a person maybe from an agency) who is listening and having a difficult time translating for his superiors (all “yesses”) while protecting America’s security. But surprisingly out of his comedy and producing laughter Azhar Usman also showed his maturity when he highlighted the need for everyone to battle stereotyping and judging people by the way they look.

    SALAM’s Fall Fundraising Banquet was a success, bringing the community a step closer to paying off the loan taken to build one of the most beautiful Mosques in the region. But external beauty aside, what is inside the structure is certainly more important, and one hopes that the vision of SALAM as an American institution devoted to Islamic teachings and practices thrives into the future.