Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Musical presentation of our pilgrimage for pathway to citizenship

A beautiful musical presentation by fellow pilgrims ... Music by Josth Stenner, Vocals by Diana Campos and video editing by Estefany Mendez.
Click here to watch.

A Professorial Rebuttal to Knucklehead Kevin McCarthy

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My fellow pilgrim Professor Gonzalo Santos offers a sober rebuttal to the knucklehead Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Click here to watch.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Here's a video clip of knucklehead Kevin McCarthy who shamelessly tried to defend himself for not meeting with the pilgrims (including me) who walked 285 miles in 21 days to meet him in his district at his office. And, yet he has the audacity to try to pivot the discussion from immigration reform to my fellow pilgrim Prof. Gonzalo Santos. In a video response, my dear brother Prof. Santos not only graciously responds to Kevin McCarthy's lame attempts but also sets the record straight by explaining why comprehensive immigration reform is long over due in our country. Si Se Peude.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Walking the Prophetic Walk for a Pathway to Citizenship
Walking the Prophetic Walk for a Pathway to Citizenship
(also published at another site)
Over the last 30 years, I have worked on many different social justice issues as a central passion in my life. This call to work for social justice is deeply rooted in my faith as a Muslim, and it is this call I have tried to serve since 2005 as the executive director of the Shura Council of Southern California, which is an umbrella association of Mosques and Muslim organizations serving Muslims living in Southern California and society at large.
For more than a millennium, my faith has taught that “when you see a wrong, right it.”
This mandate is without an option for neutrality, let alone apathy.  The choices to right the wrong includes, “action,” “speech” or “empathy,” in that order. Action is considered to be the strongest demonstration of faith while empathy, though admirable is considered as the weakest expression of the faithful.  A central part of our history as Muslims is the migration of the Prophet Muhammad, where he was forced to leave his home and family to seek freedom, justice and peace for all. These teachings, urging me to right wrongs with action and to seek peace by leaving behind home and homeland give me incredible peace as a Muslim.
Central to this call to work for social justice has been my own journey as an immigrant to the United States. I came from India in 1985 and ever since, by watching the journeys of my friends and family members, and through my work in the interfaith community, I have seen the ways that our current immigration system tears families apart. This is especially true for the 11 million aspiring Americans living in this country whose status is uncertain –people of diverse national origin and religious backgrounds, who are often exploited by corporations and often the law with very little if any recourse. They are hardworking people who are forced to live in constant fear of being separated from their families.
For almost two decades, our nation’s indifference toward these undocumented Americans who are freely exploited from the valleys of California to the shores of Maine has left me agitated, unable to be at peace. During these last 20 years, the poor and those without legal status have become poorer and more powerless while the rich have become richer and more indifferent. I saw this wrong; I struggled with how to right it. Peace eluded me. Indeed I have also seen how the policies of this countries broken immigration system have also affected the Muslim community unfairly, as was recently revealed in an ACLU report which exposed the previously unknown national security program known as the “Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program,” where the government purposely and illegally excludes many applicants from Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities from these opportunities by delaying and denying their applications without authority.
My agitation as a naturalized United States citizen and as a person of faith, I believe now morally binds me to the more than 11 million mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons of myriad faiths and diverse traditions who are aspiring Americans and all those who suffer from unjust immigration policies. Following the legacy and example of the Prophet Muhammad, I decided that I too must become a Pilgrim for the sake of freedom I decided to join the Pilgrimage for a Pathway to Citizenship and walk 111 miles in solidarity with and dignity for the 11 million aspiring Americans yearning for full citizenship and enfranchisement in our great nation.
I walked with my fellow Pilgrims, learned their stories, and shared mine with them.  We are all immigrants, all Americans. Together, we walked, prayed and broke bread. We sang and sometimes, we wept. But for the 10 days on the Pilgrimage for a Pathway to Citizenship, rain or shine, we walked as one—walking for respect and dignity, demanding equality and fair treatment.
Walking is prophetic. On this journey it was my prayer, that we walked in the tradition of Moses who walked out of Pharaoh’s land to free the oppressed. We will walk in the tradition of Jesus who walked to Jerusalem and protested oppressors. And, I will also walk in the tradition of Muhammad who walked from his birthplace to a city afar, for a better tomorrow of his people.
My prayer in downtown Visalia before visiting the office of Congressman Devin Nunes asking him for his support for Pathway to

My prayer in downtown Visalia on August 27, 2013, before visiting the office of Congressman Devin Nunes asking him for his support for Pathway to Citizenship.

With me were my 14 pilgrim comrades & also Roberto Bustos, the Capitan of the historic 1966 March that was organized by late Cesar Chavez in support of Delano grape farm workers. They had walked from Delano to Sacramento in 1966 and we walked from Sacramento to Bakersfield in 2013. Injustice continues and so does our struggle for justice! 


Dear God:

We have gathered here today as your witness and as a witness to the dreams and aspirations of our 11 million brothers & sisters.

We embrace each one of them and their loved ones as our brothers and as our sisters.

We join them and pray with them for their demand of a "pathway to citizenship."

Dear God ... the very creation of our nation was meant to glorify your name, freely, and

to pursue opportunities for a better tomorrow and to also live with dignity, honor and freedom from the tyranny of the oppressors.

Dear God ... we stand here today as people of diverse faiths but a community of conscience who believe that -

You, O Dear God, never ask us for papers, but the ungodly people do.

Dear God, we also know that Your mercy and grace is all inclusive -

You  embrace everyone with Your infinite love, and so do we ...

May "they" come to live and/or work from the shores of the Atlantic or the Pacific

by Sea or by Land, or

may we call them "naturalized" or "aliens" -

we as your devoted servants, welcome them in our hearts and in our neighborhoods, and

we welcome them with our unconditional love and respect, just as you do.

Dear God ... we pray that in this land of all colors and many languages -

ALL of them - ALL of them have only one status, and that

they are YOUR creation - You created them equally and

You have endowed upon all - honor and dignity.

So today our dear Lord, we stand in front of you,

asking you of Your Grace and Mercy upon all of us

Bless us today and tomorrow with the strength

to keep on walking and

to keep on fighting for the

Pathway to Citizenship.




Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hoping to Walk the Talk ...

Nearly three decades ago

Nearly three decades ago, as I was leaving “home” as an economic √©migr√©, I went to my mother and asked for words of wisdom that can guide my immigration journeys. She smiled and said: “you talk too much – it could be your strength but also your weakness.”

Mothers are indeed the custodians of knowledge and wisdom. I wish I had given due attention to her advise. Instead, I have been talking since and mostly non-sense.

About two decades ago, I had enrolled myself in a class for “public speaking.” I had hoped that a formal tutelage in talking would help me fine-tune my weaknesses that my mother was hinting toward.

My speech teacher opened the class with this sage advise; “it does not matter what you think on your seat, but it does matter what you say on your feet.”

Like mothers, teachers are also the custodians of knowledge and wisdom. I guess my speech teachers’ advise hit me close. I have been talking since, in public and on my feet – protesting this and challenging that. Although nothing got resolved but I keep talking from my seat and also on my feet and for over half a century. I believe it is time to stop talking and start walking.

From the eve of August 24, I will join a small group of conscientious p eople, who are doing just that. They are walking for dignity and also for freedom from the labels of ‘diseased,’ ‘undocumented’ and ‘illegal’ among others.

I will walk (hopefully without talking) a symbolic 111 miles for the 11 million fellow human beings. As a collective, they have been the subjects of hate and bigotry for too long.

I will walk in the tradition of Moses who walked out of Pharaoh’s land to free the oppressed. I will walk in the tradition of Jesus who walked and protested the oppressors. And, I will also walk in the tradition of Muhammad who walked from his birthplace to a city afar, for a better tomorrow of his people. Walking is prophetic. May God’s choicest blessings always be with all of them.

I am hoping that my 111 miles long walk in 8 days from the city of Fresno to the city of Bakersfield, if not prophetic, would be pleasant. I invite you to come along and join me from this space. And if you are really curious of my daily walking itinerary, click here.

Friends, you have always helped and supported my many adventures – from Bosnia to Banda Aceh and Occupied Palestine to Occupy Los Angeles. Please do me two more favors.

  1. Call/Email or walk into Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s and tell him that you support full and complete immigration reform and demand that no person be called illegal or undocumented. Remind him that God did not create people with documents but with dignity and honor. And insist that he should stand with the 11 million people and seek full citizenship for them and without conditions and now.
  2. And secondly – open your wallet and pitch in a dollar or a million. Nope it is not for me but to help those who are helping others. Please click here to do the needful.

And now I better shut up. My mother was right. I talk too much. It is time for a walk and to sing .. Si Se Peude!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Walking Itinerary from Fresno to Bakersfield - 125.8 miles

August 24th






St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church

Sat - Aug 24


1st night in Fresno

Afternoon Prayer Service

Fresno to Selma

Sun - Aug 25

17.4 miles

2nd night in Selma


Selma - Halfway to Visalia

Mon - Aug 26

14 miles

3rd night - half way point to Visalia


Halfway from Selma - Visalia

Tue - Aug 27

14 miels

4th night in Visalia


Visalia to Tulare

Wed - Aug 28

16.4 miles

5th night in Visalia

Vigil at Dios Habla Church - Tulare 

Tulare – Half way to Delano

Thur - Aug 29

16 miles

6th night - half way to Delano


Half way from Tulare – Delano

Fri - Aug 30

16 miles

7th night - Delano


Delano - half way to Bakersfield

Sat - Aug 31

16 miles

8th night - half way to Bakersfield


Half way from Delano to Bakersfield

Sun - Sep 1

16 miles

9th night in Bakersfield


125.8 miles

Mon - Sep 2



Action w/Rep. Kevin McCarthy

111 Miles in Solidarity with 11 Million

A Jesuit activist friend emailed me about a 285 mile Pilgrimage for a Pathway to Citizenship

A Jesuit educated Baptist activist friend emailed me about a 285 mile Pilgrimage for a Pathway to Citizenship. After reading his email I questioned myself if my response should be as a Muslim-at-peace or a citizen-agitated. Read the rest and tell me if my response was influenced by my faith or impacted by my agitation.

For almost two decades, I remain agitated for our nation's indifference toward the now demonized "un-documented," who were freely exploited from the valleys of California to the shores of Maine. And during these last twenty years, the poor and the un-documented became poorer and powerless while the plantation capitalists became richer and more indifferent. Some pundits even screamed from their bullhorns, that the un-documented are the "diseased aliens," not worthy of documentation, let alone any recognition. And, this makes me a citizen-agitated. 

For more than a millennium, my faith teaches me that "when you see a wrong, right it." This mandate is without an option for neutrality, let alone apathy.  The choices to right the wrong includes, “action," "speech" or "empathy," in that order. Action is considered to be an expression of the strongest of faith while empathy, though admirable is considered as the weakest expression of the faithful. And, this teaching makes me a Muslim-at-peace.

My agitation as a citizen and inspiration as a faithful now morally binds me to the more than 11 million undocumented women and men of myriad faiths and diverse tradition.

It is for these reasons I decided to join the pilgrimage for a pathway to citizenship and walk 111 miles in solidarity with and dignity for the 11 million undocumented women and men, young and old of our nation.

Along the way from August 24 to September 2, I will walk and learn their stories and share mine with them. Together, we will walk, pray and break bread. We will also sing and may even cry. But for the 10 days as a pilgrim for a pathway to citizenship, come what may - rain or shine, we will be one ... walking for respect and dignity and demanding honor and equality. And this, I believe could be a duty of every citizen, agitated or not and an obligation of each faithful, a Baptist or a Muslim!

I invite you to walk with me virtually by visiting this blog. Also, hold us in your thoughts and prayers. And if you cannot do either, I ask that you consider the following:

1. Write to Rep. Kevin McCarthy  or your legislator and ask them to support comprehensive immigration reform that includes pathway to citizenship without hurdles and obstavcles.

2. Help those who are helping others. Your contributions, however large or small, helps LA Voice to push  in making the Pathway to Citizenship, a Highway to Citizenship.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Rumsfeld Lied People Died" - I screamed & thrown out ...

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Rumsfeld Lied, People Died

When I heard that the war criminal known as Donald Rumsfeld would be appearing in the area, I could not wait to confront him.  Along with handful of enlightened citizens and friends, we showed up at his event at the resting place of his fellow liar, Richard Nixon.

Along with two good friends at a cost of $50 each, we decided to enter the event as attendees and force ourselves to listen to more lies and also receive even bigger lies packed into his new book, “Rumsfeld’s [dumb] Rules.” 

The venue was lit up and nearly full with empty heads in suits and satins. Then came the lying king to live music and he starts off with a complaint that the emcee’s introduction was “moderately good.” I do not know if he wanted us to know the length of his lying life or simply state his age but it went something like, “I am just about one third of our nation’s age and that it makes me old and our nation very young.” No kidding, I thought!

We had decided to give him some space to feel comfortable before launching our vocal missiles. So his other rants included the advice to his daughter that “she should not worry about who to work for but to find and hang out with intelligent people.”  I hope that the young lady would not consider her father in that category.

Then he expressed his shock that the “realities [of our nation] lie outside the 60 square miles of Washington.” I wish he had discovered that before “shocking” the mothers and their children of Iraq and later Afghanistan.  He followed that up with another obscene admission that “as a wrestler, I always look at things from my opponent’s perspective.”  I so wished he could have applied this rule to allow himself to see the world from the perspective of his millions of victims.

We three were getting a bit testy and restless. There came the opportunity when he said that what keeps him awake is “America’s weakness because we ‘only’ spend 4% of our GDP on defense.” That was it for us …

Brian stood up and yelled:  “The ends do not justify the means.” On hand were a bunch of paid uniformed goons to quickly drag Brian out. I stood up, following Brian’s cue, looked into the eyes of the liar and yelled: “Rumsfeld lied; people died!”

The well-lit venue with empty suits and satins were in shock at our uncivilized outbursts. “Take them out!  Throw them out!” were some of the compliments I was able to hear clearly from the empty suits and satins.

Oh yes, thrown out we were in a matter of seconds but not before those few precious seconds were captured on camera by a courageous grandmother and comrade. Click here to watch.

The lessons I learned from this adventure are that those who have destroyed the lives of others deserved to be yelled at, unashamedly. And that they are nothing more than empty suits and must be treated as such. And that this is the best expression of democracy. So I invite you now to visit your local bookstore and if you find the liar’s new book, Rumsfeld’s Rules – grab a copy or copies – and move them to the criminal section. This can be your important contribution to protect and defend our dying democracy. If, however, you’d like to join me next time another liar visits our town, you know well how and where to reach me. I cannot wait to have you by my side for our next adventure!

Postscript: After I blogged, a friend informed me about this newspiece.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston, Baghdad & Birmingham

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Boston, Baghdad & Birmingham
Shakeel Syed – April 16, 2013

Instead of feasting their feat, innocent men and women of all ages were limping and crying. In a matter of seconds, Boston became Baghdad on the tax day. Bodies, blood and broken limbs were on the streets of Boston and on the television screens of the nation. Everyone I knew, all faiths and ages, confessed that they watched the terror and tragedy through teary eyes. Intuitively human indeed, I said to myself.

I too raised my trembling hands and prayed for the perished and the survivors. I prayed more for the survivors, because they now have to live with the trauma. The perished will be in paradise, anyway. My faith tradition suggests that the death of an innocent in this world merits the best of God’s grace in the life hereafter. And I fervently pray for the perished of the Boston bomb blasts to receive the best of heaven.

As we mourn, we must also reaffirm that senseless violence and terror that subjects life to death (anywhere and by anyone) is always abhorrent. Period. Whether bombs go off in Boston or fall in Baghdad, our respect for life must always remain unconditional. 

If questioned about the comparison of Boston to Baghdad as “untimely and unwise,” I would reply it is not only timely but also wise to question the moral and ethical disparities while being in the very midst of it. That is precisely what we learn from the writings of a modern prophet who was jailed in Birmingham in 1963.

Although Sixty years later, King’s prophetic words seem to have been written also for us and for today. Here are few of his words for our reflection.

“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Closing his thoughtful “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King leaves us with this … 

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

I say Amen to the prayer of King and add mine to his. I pray that all people, may they be Bostonians or Baghdadis live in love-drenched communities and free from fear of the other!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Truth, Terror & Tyranny 
March 13, 2013 (10 year anniversary of US invasion on Iraq)
As the terror master is getting ready to go to the land of tyranny, I thought I should give him some reading material for the road. Instead of going to the land of tyranny, a.k.a. Israel, he should stay home and reflect on the following. 

So sit down, shut up, and listen, Mr. President:

1. On March 19, 2013, visit the families of nearly 5,000 soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq.

2. Kneel down and ask your Creator for forgiveness for killing more than 150,000 innocent Iraqis (including women and children) these last ten years. 

3. While you are on your knees, also ask Him to forgive you for killing more innocent Afghani and Pakistani men, women and children than the buffoon before you.

4. Rethink your love of monster machines that are killing people, including American citizens, all over the world. Remember the adage: “chickens always come home to roost.” This may happen before you meet your Lord.

5. Some avid readers keep Reading Lists; you are known to keep a Kill List. So what does that make you, exactly?

6. How the hell did you manage to become a professor of U.S. Constitutional law and still write National Defense Authorization Act? I am stumped on this one.

7. Your bailouts got the Big 3 in Detroit billions of dollars while the city itself is bankrupt and sewage is already on streets. Your bailouts also gave birth to 17 new billionaires this last year while increasing hungry mouths from 100 million to 100+ million Americans.

8. Now, you are going to the land of terrorists, tyrants, and cowards who terrorize Gazan children from the skies. The other day I heard your loud-mouthed assistant shouting obscenities during the celebrations of Terrorists Lite in Washington DC. He said that none of your predecessors can even come close to your love for these terrorists, tyrants, and cowards.

9. You call yourself a Christian, right? So if you do end up in Bethlehem, visit the birthplace of the man whom you say you worship … close your eyes and ask yourself what would he do if he were you – kill people or save people?

10. And, that is the truth, Mr. President. If it tastes bitter, suck it up … I’ve been forced to do just that for some years.

Shakeel Syed
A taxpayer from California