Sheehan among guest speakers at anti-war event in Newark

Sheehan among guest speakers at anti-war event in Newark

NEWARK — The fourth annual American Muslim Voice peace convention brought many speakers of various backgrounds to provide a blueprint for protecting civil rights in the post- Sept. 11, 2001, era.

Visitors at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark on Sunday evening cheered and listened to guest speakers, such as anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, Muslim convert Brandon Mayfield and Ron Takaki, an ethnic studies professor at University of California, Berkeley.

The convention”s theme was building a beloved community, which included topics such as”Fighting for the American Constitution” and “America, One Nation under God?” These topics were discussed by a group of panelists in two sessions.

Welcomed with a standing ovation, Sheehan headlined the first session, reiterating that she will be running for Congress against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the congressional seat representing San Francisco.

Events, coalition building and groups like the American Muslim Voice are very important to Sheehan, she said, because they allow her “to tear down the boundaries whether they are real or fake that prevent us from having true and authentic relationships with each other.”

In April 2004, Sheehan”s son was killed in Iraq. She has protested and expressed her disgust about the U.S.”s involvement in the war and with government officials.

“We elect our representatives to protect our rights and not to take them away from us,” she said. “We have to stand up for the


people that do not have voices. Ignorance is a wall and we break down those walls to build bridges with each other.”

Sheehan added that changing the way people think about each other is a way of improving relations among different people in the world.

“This occupation of Arab-Muslim land shows how racist we really are,” she said. “If we can justify it by saying it”s OK to kill a million Iraqis, but at least my family is safe. … No, that is not OK!”

In 2004, Brandon Mayfield, an American who converted to Islam, was falsely linked to the Madrid train bombings and received an apology and restitution from the federal government after being held in jail for weeks.

His recollection of racial and religious profiling after Sept. 11 was a highlight of the event. Mayfield said the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, a system designed to protect U.S. citizens from terrorism, “was really a war on Islam.” His situation is one of the most prominent cases opponents cite against the Patriot Act.

“I should remind you, if you didn”t know already, that our freedom of religion in this country is a sacred right and to exercise ones beliefs should never be a factor of a government”s investigation in its citizens.”

Staff writer Jamaal Johnson can be reached at 510-353-7003 or [email protected].