By Khalid Saeed
The purpose of a religion is to teach morals and provide guidelines to follow in life. Perhaps the most important teaching is “love thy neighbor.” Islam and all religions try to bring order to society and eradicate evil.
On life, great Sufi poet Rumi said: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
When I read this wisdom from Rumi, I was wondering if Jeff Reisig, Yolo County’s district attorney, really is a “Rumi’s whirling dervish” (disciple). The thought came to me because his office has worked hard and spent many months to establish a Multi-Cultural Community Council with a mission to promote understanding among Yolo County’s diverse population, develop historical and demographic knowledge and celebrate how cultural knowledge expands our ability to accept and appreciate differences.
Using Rumi’s words, Reisig’s “task” as a district attorney is not necessarily to seek love on the job, but he is a public official who represents the government in the prosecution of criminals. In a civilized world and in our criminal justice system, a person is innocent until proven guilty. The alleged criminals are still innocent while the DA’s Office is investigating and putting the case together. My hope is that investigation is fair when the criminal is still alleged and the charge is fair as the investigation completes.
Many may have complaints, and I do hear some stories where people feel they were not dealt with justly. But if the DA’s Office is trying to eliminate barriers within the system — barriers like prejudices, hate and discrimination — and lives up to the mission of the MCCC, in my view it is practicing the best of any religion, the best of any civilized society and the best of humanity. The DA’s office should be commended for it.
The MCCC has planned several community forums and recently held its first, which examined the Muslim and Sikh community. The audience at Woodland Community College included, among others, police officers from Woodland, Davis, Winters and West Sacramento, and representatives of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol.
Reisig was quoted in The Davis Enterprise as saying that each police chief agreed it would be essential for law enforcement to be present at the discussion. He proved their — and his own — commitment to remaining sensitive to the issues introduced when he said:
“It will matter when they’re making a car stop, or when they’re out in the community contacting people. It was the group’s decision to get as many cops out here as we can, because the more they understand, the better it will be for all of us.”
“I learned a lot tonight, too, and that’s good,” Reisig continued. “I mean, issues come up all the time in the DA’s office where distinctions between cultures, religions and ethnic groups are important.”
In the Muslim holy book Quran, God Almighty the creator of heaven and earth, says to humanity: “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.” (Quran 5:8)
Quoting the Sufi poet Rumi again, “What is planted in each person’s soul will sprout.” There are many among us who are actively and intentionally planting hate, bigotry and prejudice, which create fear in the community and cause discrimination, which then gets in the way of justice.
I think all of us as a society need to be true to our American ideals. We should not be selective when we stand up to hate and discrimination. All of us should voice our opinions for justice and against hate for all Americans, regardless of their color, race, religion or sex, in a true American way.
I will conclude with Rumi: “Lovely days don’t come to you; you should walk to them.”
— Khalid Saeed, a longtime Woodland resident, is national president of the American Muslim Voice Foundation.