Oakland Mayor Plans Key Speech at Islamic Center

OAKLAND, California – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf will give the annual State of the City address next month at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, for the first time in the history of the state.

“I’m very excited to make a statement that Oakland is a sanctuary city in every sense of the word,” Schaaf told KTVU on Friday.

“I’m so grateful that the Muslim community is inviting us into their house. We are one family.”

Shaaf’s speech will be the first for such a speech outside of the walls of City Hall and the first time at an Islamic center.

The gesture was praised by Payman Amiri, board chairman of the center, who said that it “cultivates an exchange of ideas about Islam through art, culture, and education programs.”

“We have always been welcome here,” Amiri said.

“Even post 9/11. Churches and synagogues joined our congregational prayer. And when the travel ban came, we got a lot of welcoming notes and flowers from our neighbors. We feel we live in a city that’s very inclusive.  It is an honor. “

Schaaf said it was after President Donald Trump first enacted the travel ban against those from Muslim-majority countries that she first started reaching out to mosques and Muslim leaders in earnest to let them know that Oakland does not tolerate “bigotry and hate.”

Other politicians and civic leaders have used their stature to reach out to Muslims, who came under increasing attacks recently.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has shown a great increase in anti-Muslim groups since 2010.

Last summer, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hosted the Iftar, or the end of the Ramadan fast, at the Chicago Cultural, promising that would pursue inclusion of all ethnic groups including Arabs and non-Arabs.

In  2004, then-San Jose police chief Rob Davis, a Mormon, won widespread acclaim when he participated in Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting. At the time, he said he joined the fast to show solidarity with Muslims and form a deeper understanding of the community.

Schaaf, too, wants to stand strong with the Muslims in her city.

“There is so much national strife right now, and so much bigotry and racism,” Schaaf said.

“It’s against everything Oakland stands for. Mostly, I love the symbolism of this. This is where the state of Oakland is: Standing up against hatred and being part of a very diverse family that we love.”