Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Professor Agha Saeed Sets Fast Pace for Political Empowerment of U.S. Muslims in Year 2000

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Professor Agha Saeed Sets Fast Pace for Political Empowerment of U.S. Muslims in Year 2000

Article excerpt

Professor Agha Saeed Sets Fast Pace for Political Empowerment of U.S. Muslims in Year 2000

Dr. Agha Saeed, a professor of political science and speech at the California State University, Hayward, was having brunch with me in the coffee shop of a large hotel near the Los Angeles International Airport.

Responding to my request for an appointment, he had taken an early morning flight from San Francisco. His wife, Ameena, and daughter, Mariam, 9, were sound asleep when he headed for the airport from their residence in nearby Fremont. The night before, when he returned home near midnight from a long day's agenda that encompassed several cities and five discussion appointments, they were already asleep.

When Mrs. Findley and I first met Agha, he was a graduate student. Before my lecture at the university, he brought us to his home for tea with his wife and a glimpse of his infant daughter. Asked about his "baby" in our most recent meeting, Agha, producing photographs, said, "My baby is now five feet three inches tall."

Saeed is a busy man. More accurately he is a driven man. By his own accounting, he has spent 90 percent of his waking hours for the past two years building organizations that will convey political empowerment to the U.S. Muslims. He is not a lone wolf. Far from it, he is more like the proverbial Pied Piper, a modern-day one who is able to rally scores of people to the worthy causes he embraces and the organizations he formulates.

His three-year goal: Strengthening the Islamic community's political muscle sufficiently so that 2,000 U.S. Muslims will be elected to public office by the year 2000. He hopes that among those elected will be a member of the U.S. Congress. His short-term goal this fall was inspiring 200,000 California Muslims who had never before voted to be a decisive factor in the Nov. 3 general elections.

Although he never seems agitated or in a hurry, Saeed moves steadily down at least three complex tracks at once: first, providing leadership for the intensive nationwide program of the burgeoning American Muslim Alliance (AMA), an organization that he set in motion four years ago; second, organizing the voter-turnout program that is focused on California, America's most populous state; and third, providing leadership as the national coordinator of the American Muslim Political Coordination Council (AMPCC), a new "umbrella" organization that hopes to harmonize and coordinate the activities of major Muslim groups.

AMPCC is the counterpart of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an organization that consists of the chief officer of 52 of the 200 or more national Jewish groups. Five Muslim group leaders formed the nucleus that brought AMPCC into being. Taking part in the organization meetings held in Fremont, California, earlier this year, in addition to Saeed, were Dr. Yasmeen Khan of the American Muslim Caucus; Mujahid Ramadan of the American Muslim Council (AMC); Nasif Majeed of the Coalition for Good Government; Nihad Awad and Omar Ahmed for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR); Ghazi Khankan of the National Council of Islamic Affairs (NCIA); and three representatives of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPFAC), namely, Dr. Maher Hathout, Dr. Aslam Abdullah and Salam al Maryati.

When I talked to Saeed on a Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, he had directed four informational meetings in four cities during the weekend, and expected to do three more in the next 48 hours. These meetings were designed for Muslims who have not previously voted. Instructions were provided for voter registration and information on candidates and issues that would be on the California ballot.

AMA is growing fast in major U.S. cities beyond California. Four new chapters, the latest in Hawaii, were awaiting Saeed's presence for organization and election of offices.

To date, 78 AMA chapters in 27 states are chartered and functioning. …

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