11 Nov Veterans Day Event in Washington, DC
MAVA’s Annual 2015 Veterans Day Observance
By Lyndon A. Bilal, MAVA National Commander
“I have only created jinns and men, that they may serve Me“. – Qur’an – 51:56.
In accord with the excellent life example and model established in the seerah of Muhammad the Prophet (SAWS) in striving to be the best resident in the land in which you claim citizenship, and the spirit of New World Patriotism established by Imam W. Deen Mohammed (RA), on Wednesday, November 11, 2015, The Muslim American Veterans Association (MAVA) held their Annual Veterans Day program, and Wreath Laying Ceremony at Masjid Muhammad “The Nation’s Mosque”, Washington, DC, and the National WW II Memorial.
After making Salatul-Zhur in the Musallah of the Masjid, the attendees were treated to an assortment of delicious refreshments including, fresh sandwiches, coffee, tea, juices, and other delectable food. The program began with resident Imam, and MAVA Vice Commander / Imam -Talib Shareef reciting an excellent prayer, and asking everyone to stand as the National Anthem was played.
Imam Shareef set the tone for the day with his well thought out welcoming comments, and introduced MAVA National Commander Lyndon Bilal who gave a brief history of the founding of the organization, and an overview of their current activities, mission and goals.
Imam Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, USA, Ret. followed Commander Bilal’s talk. Other than being the first ever Muslim in the history of the United States to serve officially on active duty in the chaplaincy, he also served honorably for 25 years in the military. In his address he talked about some of his highlights, and experiences while in the military, and informed the attentive audience that there are currently 11 Muslim chaplains serving on active duty today.
A special award was presented to Sultan Aziz Muhammad, USA, Ret, for his 32 years of exemplary service which concluding this year, with him ascending to the top position as the Senior Enlisted Command Sargent Major, at the Defense Logistics Agency, Fort Belvoir, VA. His congratulatory remarks included an acknowledgement that he was humbled and appreciative, but felt unworthy of the honor, because firstly, all the praise and credit belongs to Allah (SWT), and the upbringing he received from his father (the late Yahya B.A. Muhammad aka Cpt. John) the Muslim community, and his Jr. Fruit of Islam training, and experiences.
The next speaker was Brother Mehmood Kazmi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), where he serves as a national policy advisor. MPAC partnered with MAVA to ensure that this event was highly successful. Brother Mehmood talked about three principles – gratitude, recognition, and hope, as ways of defeating negative stereotypes of Muslims, and staying engaged in the political process. Also, he addressed the attendees about the need for Muslim community members to remain being politically involved, and the importance and ramifications of the upcoming presidential elections.
The Honorable Hassan El-Amin, Judge of the 7th District Court, Prince Georges County, Maryland, was delighted to be a contributor to the program, and he talked about serving the public as a judge on the enforcement side of the law. He recalled one time when he was asked by someone if there was a conflict in reconciling the laws that he has administer with the laws of Islam, and he responded, absolutely not, because the greatness of this country was founded upon Islamic principles which are codified in the first amendment. Additionally, he stated that in America we live more in a non-sectarian society than in a secular society, and referenced Surah 2 , Ayat 256 – Let there be no compulsion in religion, because truth stands out clear from error, and Surah 109 – To you be your religion and to me be mine, in making the point that we have free exercise of religion in this country based upon the establishment / free exercise clause, which states that congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of any religion, and prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
MAVA founding member Taalib-Din Abdul-Wakil addressed the audience and made a powerful analogy between the Prophet (SAWS) forgiving those who persecuted him and the fledgling Muslim community upon their conquest of Mecca, and how Imam W.D. Mohammed (RA) was deserving of the utmost credit for how he had to spend several years of his life unjustly incarcerated for his stand as a conscientious objector. But, when he was released and eventually came into leadership, he was wise, and courageous enough to still pick up the flag under which he was imprisoned, and in doing so protected our community from falling into apathy, bitterness, extremism, and pity parties over all the struggles and hardships that we went through as members of this society.
Imam Talib Shareef read the Veterans Day proclamation issued from the U.S. President and Commander and Chief, Barack H. Obama, as well as a letter of veteran support, and appreciation presented to MAVA from Muslim Congressman, Andre Carson, from Indiana’s 7th Congressional District, who desired to attend in person , but could not attend due to a scheduling conflict.
Next, a certificate signed by MAVA National Commander Lyndon Bilal, and Imam Talib Shareef recognizing the “Keeper of the Flame” award was presented to distinguished WW II veteran Sheikh Nazim Abdul-Kariem. Sheikh Nazim was given the actual award last year and it will remain in his possession until it is passed on to the next recipient.
The audience was treated to a musical performance of an original heart-felt song with thought-provoking lyrics called Teach Love. Teach Love was sang as a duet for the first time to a live audience by Mujahid Azim aka Mark Greene of the original Moments, and the captivating soothing vocals of Sister Kasey Martin.
The first part of the program concluded with a du’a. Thereafter, most of the attendees prepared to get on the luxurious shuttle bus to be transported a few miles from the Masjid to the National WW II Memorial, on the spacious Washington, DC, Mall to participate in the Wreath laying ceremony.
The Wreath Laying ceremony included speeches by Imam Talib Shareef, MAVA National Commander Lyndon Bilal, Sultan Aziz Muhammad, USA, Ret., Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, USA, Ret., Taalib-Din Abdul-Wakil, Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC President, and Howard Hardy, WW II and Signal Corp. veteran.
Additionally, an impromptu letter of appreciation from an inconspicuous onlooker named Chris who witnessed our ceremony was given to MAVA member Aziz Abdul-Shaheed who read his sincere words in which he said our patriotic ceremony touched his heart and soul in a special way. Also brother Mujahid Azim crooned the song “G-d Bless America” in his silky smooth voice.
The ceremony concluded with many spectators joining us as we marched in unison behind Sheikh Nazim Abdul- Kariem, and Mr. Howard Hardy as they placed a wreath in front of the Atlantic Gate of the National WW II Memorial.