Combatting Islamophobia with the Council on American Islamic Relations

This is the meeting for the week of November 27, 2017 through December 3, 2017

This Meeting at a Glance:
Program: Combatting Islamophobia with the Council on American Islamic Relations
Program Description: This week our speaker shares with us about the ongoing fight against Islamophobia from the perspective of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Speaker: Zahra Biloo, Executive Director of the San Francisco Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Is this your first time to visit us? If so, welcome to our weekly online meeting! To complete our meeting, please continue reading from here to the bottom of this page. 

Each Monday our week’s meeting is posted early in the morning, U.S. Pacific Time. These meetings are designed so that you can read and watch what we post anytime during the week. The entire meeting takes about 60 minutes to complete, with the video conference recording of the program being the bulk of the time.

Note that you can easily read this meeting with your favorite device, so feel free to take our meeting on the go with you; read it while on public transit, waiting in line for coffee, or even at the park! Please also make sure to complete the attendance form at the bottom and leave a comment. Enjoy!

Welcome to the Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley!

Here’s a message from President-elect Andrew:

Greetings Members and Guests,
Some of us ate too much. Some of us shopped too much. And now, for many of us, this is the week that transitions us into winter. This is a time that makes me think of hygge, a Danish concept for which the closest, yet still imperfect, English translation would be coziness. It’s the quality of being at home lit by the fireplace while there’s a storm outside or having a slow sip from a steaming cup of tea with old friends far from the bustle of the everyday.
I love that this word is particularly Danish but also a universal experience. It describes a kind of joy that anyone of any background can understand. One thing I was thankful for during Thanksgiving was that I’m a member of this e-Club of world citizens who understand the universality of the human experience, the importance of acceptance, and the value of working together.
This week, our guest speaker talks about ongoing challenges related to Islamophobia and the divisiveness that arises between people of different backgrounds. Please join me in welcoming our guest speaker who’s work, in a way, endeavors to offer a space for people of different backgrounds to sip tea together regardless of, or maybe in spite of, the noise outside.

Andrew Taw, President-elect
Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley

Weekly Funny with the Lady of Laughter (LOL)

We believe laughter is an important part of life, and we should all make time to laugh a little. This segment of our meeting is meant to tickle you just enough. These funnies are curated by member Yvonne Kwan, our “Lady of Laughter!”

From our club’s Lady of Laughter, Yvonne Kwan:

“Jokes! Happy Cyber Monday! Whether or not you are one of those brave souls scavenging for deals, here are some jokes that will sell you a laugh.

Where does Princess Leia go shopping?
At the Darth Maul.

What does one in a mall do with a cheesy credit card?
Go on a shopping brie.

Where do dogs go when their tails fall off?
The re-tail store.

Weekly Inspiration: Need a Good Password? This 11-Year-Old Will Sell You One

Every week we start our meetings with a short video highlighting innovation, inspiration, entrepreneurship, or social change. This week we are featuring a video from Great Big Story about the password generating business of an 11-year old entrepreneur.

We love featuring stories about innovation and entrepreneurship, and this story are both of those combined.
Ever been hacked? Need better passwords? For two dollars, Mira Modi can help you with that.

New Member Introduction

Members and guests, last week we welcomed Ariana Fishkin to our club as one of our newest Rotarians. This week Ariana shares with us more about herself.

Thanks for sharing, Ariana!

World of Rotary

The over 1.2 million members of Rotary Clubs around the world form the largest humanitarian service organization, Rotary International. We’re part of this global family. This segment is a tribute to stories and to good deeds Rotary clubs around the world are conducting.

A program created by Rotary scholar Marco Faggella is training engineers around the world to make buildings safer in earthquakes.

This is an excerpt from this story written by Diana Schoberg of The Rotarian Magazine

“We’re in the car, and my traveling companion and local guide Marco Faggella is blasting the stereo. He wants me to hear the music of a friend of his, who has reinterpreted southern Italy’s traditional tarantella rhythms as intoxicating trance tunes. Over dinner the previous evening, Faggella, a member of the Rotary Club of Roma Nord-Est, filled me in on his Top Secret Plan to get his friend to play at the Burning Man art festival. In that conversation, Faggella also educated me on the finer points of Italian mysticism, Magna Graecia, and Pythagoras.

Faggella is full of grand plans: When he launched a film festival in 2009 in the beach town of Maratea in partnership with Rotary District 2100 (in part to show off the Oscar-nominated polio film The Final Inch), he called Francis Ford Coppola, whose grandparents came from the region. Coppola ended up sending a video message.

I’m here to find out more about another of his big ideas, this one in his professional life. Faggella, who was trained through a Rotary scholarship, is a research associate in seismic engineering at Sapienza University of Rome. He looks at how to construct buildings – or retrofit existing ones – so that they don’t tumble down if an earthquake strikes. It’s a passion that makes sense given the earthquake risk in Italy, including in his hometown of Potenza, the city we are visiting at the instep of Italy’s boot. 

Most of the 60,000 people who die in natural disasters every year are killed by a building collapse during an earthquake in a developing country. Instead of going into reaction mode each time an earthquake strikes, Faggella thought, why not educate people to construct safer buildings so that fewer people are injured? 

He looked to his experiences with Rotary to come up with a plan…”

Read the full story by clicking here to take you to

For Members Only: Updates

This segment of the meeting is dedicated to our club members. This section includes announcements and new initiatives. Guests, you are welcome to read this section or just skip it.

Don’t forget to buy your gift for the Secret Santa Gift Exchange!

Members who joined in this year’s annual Secret Santa gift exchange, this is just a gentle reminder to make sure to purchase your gifts and postmark or deliver the gift by December 8th! That’s coming up soon! And if you are participating and you have not yet updated your wishlist on, please do so so that your Secret Santa knows what to get you!

Programs Committee Still Needs Speaker Referrals:

The Programs Committee needs your help! If you know someone who you believe would be an interesting speaker for one of our programs, please make the referral or email introduction to the committee! Ready to introduce someone to the club’s programs committee? Email Committee Chair Rushton at [email protected]

Members: NAMEBADGES ARE COMING — Seriously! We’re ordering the first batch this week! Please Update your info please!

The Membership Committee is working on ordering new magnetic name badges for each member! We are missing the info for many members!!! These name badges will have your name on it and your profession. Perfect for wearing when you attend any Rotary events or meetings. In order to do this, we need your most updated information. Members, please click here to submit your info.

Past Member Announcements:

  • Active members now have [email protected] email forwarders! Your forwarder should be your full first name plus the first initial of your last name. Emails going to your email will be forwarded automatically to the email you have on file with our club. If you want your email forwarder changed to a different variation of your name, please email Webmaster Mitty at [email protected]
  • Members Only Facebook Group: If you haven’t joined our members-only Facebook Group, consider joining! Request an invitation from [email protected]
  • Service Blotter Submissions: Click here to fill out The Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley Service Survey

Our Events & Projects

We hold our meetings online, but we hold regular service projects and social events in the Silicon Valley every month! This section is updated every week with our upcoming events. We welcome guests to all of our events and service projects listed here.

Also be sure to join our Meetup Group for automatic calendar updates and to RSVP for our events! These are open to all guests as well!

Rotary E-Club of Silicon Valley

Fremont, CA
138 Members & Guests

Calling all service-minded entrepreneurs, foodies, and community leaders! This group is for anyone interested in innovation, community service, education, business networking,…

Check out this Meetup Group →

Upcoming Events:

All times are Pacific Time! (San Francisco time)

Friday, December 8 at 6:30 PM at the Hurley Mansion in Santa Clara, California

Members, our annual holiday dinner social will be happening Friday, December 8 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Past President Rushton has generously offered his home, the Hurley Mansion, as our dinner venue. Enjoy a relaxing evening (no icebreakers, no meeting agenda, no speakers) with just your fellow club members and their guests. All members are welcome to bring their family members, loved ones, and/or guests to this event. The Membership Committee understands that many of you might be coming straight from work – no problem! We’re asking members to RSVP and include what you are bringing in terms of food or beverages. If you can’t bring anything, just let us know and we’ll make sure to buy extra food. (We would encourage you to consider just making an appropriate donation to the club if you can’t bring anything!) If you can bring something, you are definitely invited to do so!

If you are a guest reading this and will be in the Santa Clara area Friday, December 8th, and are interested in joining us for our holiday social, please send Mitty an email at [email protected] with a little bit about yourself. Mitty will get in touch with you, and we’ll work out the details! Limited spaces available for the event.

Event Chair: Mitty Chang, Megan Breyer, Maxi Bustos

Other Upcoming Club Events:

  • Saturday, January 13, 2018 – Save the date for a club outdoor expedition (Details TBD)
  • Saturday, February 28, 2018 – Save the date for a club skydiving event (Details TBD)

More events coming soon! All events are open to guests, unless otherwise mentioned. Feel free to join us! If you ever have questions, please email [email protected]

What would you like to do?

Hey Members! What would you like to do? We’re working on putting together some exciting socials and impactful service projects for our upcoming quarter’s event calendar. Let us know what you want to do by posting in our members only Facebook Group (if you don’t have access, please request it with Webmaster Mitty). Remember, you’re only taking advantage of the full impact of Rotary when you’re stepping up to get involved.

Happy Dollars: Do Good by Sharing Something Good

Each week we ask our members to share stories with the club and toss in a few dollars to support our efforts. The primary goal of this section is to provide a fun way of getting to know each fellow members and guests, while giving back to a good cause.

Happy dollars is an opportunity to share something positive that has happened in your life whether it is personal or business. Think of it as your opportunity to brag a little, but also put a little bit into a karma jar. The money donated through happy dollars is put to charitable use, and the message that you leave for happy dollars will be posted in our online meeting the following week for the entire week for folks to see! (Pending that it’s appropriate!)

Last week’s happy dollar contributions went towards our club projects. Here are some of the happy dollar messages from last week:

Thank you to member Rory Olsen for his generous $15 donation to The Rotary Foundation’s Polio Plus Fund. Rory had this to say:
“Interesting week–had a short interview on local TV. Please apply my gift to Polio Plus.”

Thank you to member Brian Liddicoat for his generous $15 donation. Brian had this to say:
“Just trying to get through the next few days…”

Thank you all for your donations last week!

Happy dollars is also a great opportunity to share with the group about something good that has happened to you, while giving back to a great cause. Next week’s happy dollars will go back to powering our club’s projects locally and globally.

So what are you happy about? Share with us below to help with doing good around the world.

Fill out my online form.

Selected Six

Every week at the bottom of our meetings, there is a comments section for members and guests to tell us what they enjoyed about the meeting or to ask questions to the speaker. We select six comments every week from last week’s meeting to be featured during this week’s meeting.

Here are six comments selected from last week’s meeting featuring the program on TheraBaby for Seniors with Dementia:

Member Maxi Bustos (California, USA) had this to say:
“Welcome to the club Ariana! Joe, thanks for your presentation! Congratulations for your work!
Happy Thanksgiving, I hope those of you in the US enjoyed the holidays. I’m thankful I am finishing a great year, with many positive things happening in my life!

Member Rushton Hurley (California, USA) had this to say:
“Joe, that was an inspiring program – thanks so much for sharing it! And Mitty, I’d say one of the things I’m thankful for is the compelling stories our members connect us to via these programs. Great stuff. I’ll add a picture below, from Thursday’s gather-and-eat session at our house. In addition to pseudo-daughter Kelly and pseudo-older brother Bill, we had good friends from Taiwan joining us, too.

Member Yvonne Kwan (California, USA) had this to say:
Robot Restaurant — so cool! I’ll definitely have to hit that up during the next trip to Japan. Super bummed that I missed the social at Urban Putt! It looks like an awesome place to get together with friends. I’m a terrible mini-golfer, so I’d be a happy cheerleader in a mini-golf competition. Welcome to the club, Ariana! It was great meeting you in person at The Award Leader training! 🙂 Joe, thank you for sharing TheraBaby with us! The work that you have done and continue to do is so important and impactful. I appreciate you sharing your and your mother’s journey with TheraBaby. Happy Thanksgiving to all! I’m thankful for being able to spend time with my family, and I’m thankful that I am almost done with my master’s program and will be an official full-fledged teacher soon. And I know my dog, Kay, is thankful for leftovers.

Member Mitty Chang (California, USA) had this to say:
“I need to visit this robot restaurant in Tokyo! Next time I’m there. Nate, have you been there? Ariana, WELCOME to the family! So glad to have you with us as our newest Rotarian! (Also, Happy Birthday to you, Ariana!) Joe, thank you for sharing your story with our club. I’m amazed by the work you do! I am grateful for the friends that I have made and those who I have kept. I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for the connections and the opportunities I have had through Rotary. So many of my goals and my dreams have been realized through this international organization, that it truly leaves me at a loss for words — but full of joy. I’m also grateful to know each and every one of you, the members of this club! I learned when I was an Interactor that when you join forces with people who share the same goal to help others, anything is possible. I’m looking forward to 2018, and another year full of journeys and new goals for us to accomplish together!”

Member Shags Shagrin (California, USA) had this to say:
“Great meeting and fascinating program! Welcome to the Club, Ariana! Looking forward to meeting you at our next local social gathering. Mitty – I do read it all! I’m thankful for this Rotary Club and all that Rotary does worldwide, I’m thankful for loving family, my wife of 35 years as of today (11/20), and especially thankful for living in this part of the world where Thanksgiving means Dungeness crab season! Maybe a Crab Feast as a social?!?


Member Richard Knaggs (South Africa) had this to say:
“Thankful for this life and my two beautiful boys. Robots to deliver water and fight fires in our region. Thank you for your sharing your very special story with us Joe and for the wonderful work you are doing to help those who cannot help themselves.”


Be sure to leave a comment at the end of this week’s meeting after you watch the program below, and perhaps you’ll see your comment featured next week!

Program: Combatting Islamophobia with the Council on American Islamic Relations

Every week we bring to you a new program on innovation, education, technology, and humanitarian service. This week our program features Zahra Biloo, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Meet Zahra Billoo, a civil rights attorney and also the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Zahra studied Political Science at Long Beach State University, and later received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of California’s Hastings College of Law.
Zahra has been serving as the Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) since 2009. Her CAIR office, originally founded in 1994, is the oldest CAIR chapter in the country.
In the course of her work at CAIR, Zahra is frequently seen at mosques and universities facilitating trainings and workshops as a part of CAIR’s grassroots efforts to empower the American Muslim community and build bridges with allies on civil rights issues. She also provides direct legal services for victims of law enforcement targeting and Islamophobia. Her work has been highlighted in local and national media outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, KTVU, MSNBC, NPR, and the San Jose Mercury News.
In this week’s program, she shares with us what she has been seeing with Islamophobia and how to combat it.

Members and guests, please join us in welcoming Zahra!

What did you think? Let’s hear from you!

Share with us your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of this meeting page! If you have questions for Zahra, feel free to ask in the comments!

Upcoming Program Schedule

All of our guest speakers and programs are recorded live online over Zoom video conference. We welcome members and guests to join us in one of these upcoming recordings. Recordings are approximately 30 minutes long and are subject to change without notice.

Upcoming Weekly Programs:

 Week of Host Guest Speaker  Topic
 Week of 12/4/2017 TBA TBA TBA
 Week of 12/11/2017 TBA TBA  TBA
 Week of 12/18/2017 TBA TBA  TBA

Upcoming Recordings:

If you would like to join us for any of the live recordings, you are welcome to join us. Our online video conference room link for these recordings is always Please note the timezone for all recordings are listed for San Francisco, California, USA time (Pacific Time).

You’re Almost Done! One last thing: The Attendance Survey…

Thanks for reading and watching this week’s meeting. You have two last things to do before you’re done. First, we have a very short attendance survey below for you to fill out to record your attendance.

Visiting Rotarians, this is how you can get an email receipt to pass along to your club’s secretary as proof that you’ve attended our meeting if you need it for makeups.

Non-Rotarian Guests, we would love to see who is dropping by our meetings! This part is optional for you. If you think you may want to join our eClub at some point in the future, we would strongly recommend you fill out the attendance form as it will improve your chances of success for your membership application.

More importantly, for all members and guests — we strongly recommend and ask that you leave a comment below in our comments area below. Tell us how you enjoyed the program. Ask this week’s speaker any questions you might have. Or just stop by and say hello and tell us where you’re from!

Fill out my online form.
  • BDL

    Zahra Billoo is well-known to those of us who follow the struggle against extremism and hate in the United States.
    Zahra, I will be sure to raise a glass of good Israeli wine in your honor next Yom Ha’atzmaut!
    Please give my very warm regards to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin when next you see him. 🙂

    • Brian, I definitely agree that people who damage property or threaten the safety of others should be punished to the full extent of the law. I also think your comments about freedom and safety are interesting points to make. I’m not sure if we’re really looking to compare to the rest of the world, as much as we are just trying to make our local communities safer. And of course, I think that’s a process as a society we will always continue to work on — and I’m not limiting that safety to any one particular demographic. For example, if someone in my community came to me, regardless of demographic, and told me they don’t feel safe, I would hear them out and try to see what we can do to fix that — even if I lived in the safest city in the world. (Which I don’t, but just as an example.)

      On another note – you’ve lived and worked in Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Jordan?? Stories to tell it sounds like! Will you be at the holiday dinner on December 8th? Would love to hear more. 🙂 You should bring your family!

  • Rory Olsen

    Rotary is not supposed to be political. This lady’s talk strongly advocated a political viewpoint without offering a competing view of the issues discussed. It would be in the spirit of Rotary to ask someone holding a different viewpoint to speak at another meeting.

    • BDL

      I agree: for those of us in the SF Bay Area, Zahra Billoo is a well-known local Islamic provacateur (which is perfectly legal). Sort of a left-wing Muslim version of Ann Coulter. She spent a lot of time during the early 2000s trying to organize politicians against Israel during the Hamas suicide bombing campaign. When that didn’t achieve much, she reinvented herself as a “feminist activist” (also perfectly fine). She engages in twitter rants against the “racist, fascist American police state” and the “Zionists” and that’s all OK too. I just wouldn’t consider her a lady who “builds bridges”. She mostly plays to the choir of those who agree with her and angrily lashes out at and attempts to silence those who disagree with her. I wouldn’t ask her to moderate a seminar on peace in the Middle East but her twitter feed is certainly entertaining. Sorry the whole “Israel will disappear in 10 years!” thing didn’t work out…

    • Roger Plested

      I agree with Rory Olsen

    • I agree with Rory

    • Rory, you’re right – Rotary isn’t supposed to be political. I do believe, however, Zahra offered both sides of the conversation when she spoke about the topic. (Referencing both Democrats and Republicans being at fault, for example.) There were a couple of moments though where I think she may have single out voters of the past election (which isn’t okay), so I can see how this is worth reviewing. Of course, if we look at the entire topic as being political, then my previous comments wouldn’t matter. I think we’re still trying to figure out the right place for conversations that tread upon politics or can be viewed that way. I’m sure our club’s programs committee will evaluate the feedback from this week’s meeting and take that into account for future programs. Thank you for your thoughts! 🙂

      And thanks Roger and Chris for your quick comments too! The feedback is important for our programs committee to continue improving! We ultimately want programs that is appropriate to Rotary, but also ones our club members enjoy.

    • Jacob Willey

      I agree with Rory as well. I’ve struggled with this issue personally, and our greatness stems from the fact that we are not political or religious, in my opinion. That being said, we ARE a peace organization, and while her brief may not have been perfect, it begins a discussion that helps us understand our fellow man better. We have Rotary Clubs in Muslim countries, so it is to our advantage to understand their struggle. I do agree however that having a member of the Jewish community, or even a member of the Sikh community as she mentioned, speak to explain their particular struggles may be in order. If nothing else, perhaps the speeches can be tailored to what the Muslim community can to do promote Rotary goals (our last cases of Polio reside in Muslim countries if I’m not mistaken), rather than simply what we can do here politically.

    • Ferheen Abbasi

      Rory, calling Zahra “this lady” is extremely rude. Islamophobia is not a political issue – it’s a humanitarian issue. People like me are being killed because of it. If you truly couldn’t hear Zahra talking about the multifaceted, complicated nature of this topic that affects MANY communities (Jewish, Sikh, etc) and couldn’t hear her talk about “competing views,” I urge you to take a look at your own bias and ask yourself why you feel the way you do.

      As a Rotary club, especially one that is based in the Silicon Valley, it is important to have these difficult conversations. To be honest, I’ve never appreciated how white and male dominated Rotary is, which is why I never joined in the first place. But, a group like our diverse eClub should be open about challenging ourselves in hearing opinions that we may have never heard before. I also dislike that we jump so quickly to call some things “political” and not other things. Almost every single one of these club meetings can be taken as “political” so why are we singling out this one? Because she explicitly brought up political parties? Take a step back and actually try to hear her extremely educated, valuable opinion about a topic that more Rotarians need to hear.

      • BDL

        Ferheen, show some respect. Your personal attack on Judge Olsen is rude and unprofessional. He is not only your senior, but a very decent human being who, I’m sorry to say, has done more for others than you or I could achieve in a lifetime. I appreciate your frustration that Judge Olsen didn’t respond favorably to the speaker that you arranged for our club. That is no reason to attack him based on his race or gender (and don’t tell me that’s not what you meant). If associating with people who are white and male offends you, you are certainly free to join other circles. Imagine if someone here said “I almost didn’t join Silicon Valley Rotary club because there were too many Chinese people in it”. Unacceptable.

        • Ferheen Abbasi

          How am I personally *attacking* him? I am only trying to get him and the rest of the Rotary club who believed that this interview was “too political” to understand where this bias is coming from. Bringing in his job has no relation to this discussion. I am solely commenting on what he said in this one comment. Yes, I know he is a judge and that he sees many cases of pain and misery and has helped people of color. That’s great and I’m appreciative of it. Still doesn’t mean we can’t do more. And it starts here. It starts by recognizing that Zahra’s message is a humanitarian issue and that we need to protect and support Muslims like me and my family. The more this club says this meeting was “too political,” the more we don’t talk about this crisis.

          I did not attack him based on his race or gender, nor is my criticism of Rotary’s white male dominated culture an attack on any individual. Associating with people who are white and male does not offend me, but I don’t associate with people who refuse to acknowledge their privilege. Also, the official Rotary website talks about women being able to enter Rotary in 1989! That was only a few years ago. And, as of 2010 there are only 200,000 women in Rotary, but over 1.2 million members. My criticism is absolutely valid. I do not want to be a part of an organization that marginalizes people of color and women, like me.

          • BDL

            No, you directly accused Judge Olsen of being biased and said he needs to “look at his own bias”. That statement is deeply insulting and presumptuous, especially to a judge.You then went on to say that you originally didn’t want to join Rotary because it had too many white men. That statement is racist per se. The only person in this conversation who is judging people based on their race and gender is you. I’m glad you brought your friend to speak at the club. Your friend has a long history of making violently anti-US, anti-Israel statements. And that’s OK. That’s why we have the First Amendment in this country. The difference between me and Zahra is that when I heard she was going to speak to the club, I didn’t start a campaign to get her disinvited simply because I didn’t agree with her politics or found her wild political rants offensive. Zahra has a long history of making news by pulling that kind of stunt: pro-Israel speaker at Berkeley? Shut him down! Get the speech cancelled! And you can save the “check your privilege” nonsense for your college reunion. It would be difficult to find a person on this planet who is more privileged than any of us in this club, including you.

            Don’t get me wrong, CAIR has come a long way since 9/11 (haven’t we all?). It’s slowly changing into a real civil rights organization. That’s a long way from where it was a few years after 9/11, still issuing those weird “If Osama bin Laden was actually involved with the 9/11 attacks, then we condemn him” statements (hey, maybe it was the Mossad) and suggesting that Hamas suicide bombings of Israeli schoolchildren was not terrorism but “legitimate resistance against the Zionist occupation”. Only in America… 🙂

  • Welcome, Ariana! Very cool that you’ve moved to join Rotary so early in your professional life. The story about Marco Faggella was amazing. I sent him a note via Twitter to see if he’ll speak to our club. 8^) I hope we’ll have plenty of folks able to join at our house on the 8th, too. I’d prefer “Casa de Hurley” to “Hurley Mansion,” though.

    Thank you, Zahra, for your time and your message. I will say that while your topic is necessarily political, the connections to the average Rotary audience are stronger when the focus is primarily on service that reacts to conflict, rather than on the political causes of conflict. The exchange toward the end about the #IWillRideWithYou effort in Australia is a good example. I do not deny the political causes, and believe it appropriately challenging to point out that antagonism toward Muslims and weaknesses in addressing that antagonism in the United States are not on just one side of the political divide.

    What many Americans who know little of Islam do hear are typically stories of politics and extremism. Consequently a talk to a largely non-Muslim audience is as much as anything else an opportunity to identify experiences of Muslims of which the audience may not have heard. I think of the efforts of Muslim Rotarians to restart Rotary’s polio eradication efforts in places where it had stalled due to political rumors. I’m sure there are many, many examples of Muslim service to communities in the U.S. which might better help non-Muslim Americans to better understand their Muslim neighbors.

    At core, I am most thankful that as a club we can explore these issues. While I might quibble with points of emphasis, what I find encouraging is the ability of members on the right and left within service clubs to set aside conflict in favor of the appeal and possibilities of service to others.

    • BDL

      She definitely has some unique experiences and it would have been interesting to learn more about her life as a Muslim American, perspectives on working and living in California, some data on the Muslim community (older v younger, devout v not-really-that-devout)”

  • I enjoyed hearing that short story about the 11-year old entrepreneur! What an inspiration. 🙂 I’m trying to remember what I was doing when I was 11!

    Ariana, thank you for such a wonderful introduction! We’re so happy to have you part of the family!

    Zahra, thank you for taking the time to speak to our club! I appreciate your insights, and the information you’ve shared with all of us. I think we all need to do a better job about respecting each other, and about loving each other. While I know your thoughts have stirred up some discussion in our own group, I just want to thank you again for taking your time to speak to us.

    To the rest of our club, I think any topic that could be political is a great example of why I love Rotary so much. And that’s because as an organization that is apolitical, we bring together amazing, kind-hearted people from across different demographics and different political views. Our club is a great example, as we have members from 24 to 72 years of age, located from San Francisco bay area to South Africa to Japan to Australia to Brazil, and employed in just about every industry you can imagine. Our viewpoints also differ, and the recent election is an example of how divisive politics can be within communities. I’d like to take this point right now to acknowledge both Brian’s and Rory’s comments. I value both of them very much as members of this club — they’ve both been steady rocks with incredibly consistent attendance and contributions. (Brian and Rory – you both are awesome!)

    That isn’t to say I don’t have disagreements. But I’m not part of Rotary because I’m looking for a bunch of people to always agree with me; I’m looking for the diversity of experiences and perspectives to team up to do great things in the community — which we do.

    I do agree with Rory that we’re apolitical and our programs should stay non-partisan and out of politics. I don’t quite know if I would say the topic itself is political, but I do agree that there were some comments mentioned that treaded into politics. Something for our programs committee to just re-evaluate in the future.

    Regardless, I appreciate everyone’s comments. It’s always interesting to hear different perspectives in a civil manner; pretty rare to see that in an online setting! I hope to see y’all next Friday, December 8th at the club holiday dinner!! I’m bringing wine!

  • I also loved seeing all of the Thanksgiving related photos from last week!
    Shags, the photos of the steamed crabs looked delicious! You should bring some to the holiday dinner on December 8th 😉

  • Jacob Willey

    Ariana, I’m glad to meet you and welcome to the club (I’m a member of a club in Florida hoping to transition soon to this club).


    Thank you so much for speaking with us today. As an Air Force SpecOps veteran, I spent some time in several Muslim countries, and though my experience will differ from others, I made some of the best friends over there. Specifically, while stationed in Iraq, we had a water balloon fight on a hot summer day in Balad, Iraq with the Iraqi security forces. I remember laughing with them about how little we know about eachother’s religion, and how shocked folks in America would be to see a Christian and a Muslim laughing over how hard it is to resist the smell of bacon.

    Those experiences led to me study world religions, now as a civilian. A few months ago, I noticed Tucker Carlson had a Muslim woman on his show. Tucker asked the question, “We are all Americans, correct?”, to which the woman replied, “I am black first, then Muslim”. While I understood the point she was making (indeed, most Christians would identify as Christians before Americans), this response no doubt infuriated the Fox News base. I live in the Deep South, and the conversations I hear at work and in my neighborhood surround associations the media has made. Islam = extremism. Muslims = taking over. I’m sure you’ve seen this as I have, you have an uphill battle fighting to undo or reconstruct these negative associations with Islam. To your point that we should not have to know a Jewish person to know not to be anti-Semitic, I couldn’t agree more, however there are large areas of this country who will never know a Muslim, but they have Fox, or CNN, or whoever piped into their homes with images of explosions while the word “Islamic” passes by on the ticker. As a psychology major, I can tell you this has a devastating effect.

    For my part, to combat this, I am going to use my personal twitter account to highlight Muslim outreaches, such as mosques in Houston gathering supplies for those affected by the hurricane, to help counter the negative connotations in the media. I will also speak to our District General here in NW Florida about partnering with any Muslim ministries in the area.

    Thanks again for speaking with us. As-salamu alaykum.


  • Raquel D. Juncal

    In recent years all over the world, we have experienced an intensification of situations of discrimination not only against the Muslim population but against other groups, in various areas of life due to religion, ethnic origin or gender condition, or by a combination of all these factors. Discrimination has been fueled historically by stereotyped and negative opinions, which do not take into account basic sociological and demographic factors such as the diversity of groups and their cultural and religious practices.

    Given the threat posed by the proliferation of hate speech, the government has to play a leadership role to ensure social cohesion and the protection of human rights. Beyond a political tendency, we can focus on the fact that we can combat this type of situation with education and the daily work of the communities with awareness campaigns. We must work in favor of tolerance, respect and love!

    Zahra, thanks for speaking to our club! Really interesting meeting!

  • Nathan Gildart

    Ariana, welcome to the club! I’m in Japan, not far from Ferheen – who I have to meet in person before she finishes her Masters!

    Zahra, thank you for your presentation. It was spot on. I’ve been an international school secondary History / Individuals & Societies teacher for almost 20 years and have taught students from all over the planet, and from different perspectives of how the world works. It doesn’t surprise me that they are (generally, but not always) very open-minded and welcoming. Your presentation would make a great deal of sense to them. I teach at an International Baccalaureate school, which employs an inquiry approach to learning. This requires learning multiple perspectives in order to find the truth. (or the closest thing possible!) I love it, and can honestly say all of my classes have children from several faiths and belief systems. And they like and respect each other. Moreover, they’re learning to understand the bigger issues as to why people don’t treat each other well and challenge themselves to figure out how to solve these problems. (not only issues with beliefs and faith, but gender, economic disparity, etc) It’s not your typical kind of school (if compared to North America). There’s hope!

    Folks, let’s follow Rushton’s suggestion and focus on what we can do to serve, while keeping #socialjustice and #empathy in mind. At home and abroad.

  • I regret all expressions of discrimination and hate, and I strongly disapprove all of them. However, I am an optimistic person and I sincerely believe that this is becoming a better world every day, among other things, because of the commitment of people like Zahara who constantly fight for their ideals and against that who they believe is wrong. We in the world owe so much to Islam and its scholars (Logic, Mathematics and Literature, among many others). There is no and easy and quick fix for these complex problems of discrimination and hate, but education is one of the paths for sustainable success in the long run. I always learn so much in these sessions. Congratulations!!!

  • Keith Marsh

    Ariana, it was great to meet you. Loved the video on creating passwords. Zahra, thank you for this important program.

  • Steven Shags Shagrin

    Megan Breyer and I finally connected for our long-overdue Rotary Chat and we both would like to see a Rotarian Recipe segment where we all send in our favorite thing to make and then the curator (me – I volunteer!) will add it to the weekly meeting. Also, I’m taking on the task of assembling an online Membership Directory in the Members Only section, so be on the watch for the information gathering email about the online form. I thought the password video was interesting — perhaps she could add “like” in between every word or two to make it more difficult to crack, just as she talks.

    • BDL

      Steven, as a very bad cook who is really trying to get better, I’d love to see a Rotarian Recipe segment. I can follow directions and would love to see some things I can cook on a weekday night to help relieve my overworked wife.

  • Tzviatko Chiderov

    Great meeting you Ariana, welcome to our club!
    Zahra, thank you for your presentation. I think we can all agree that everyone deserves the opportunity to be treated fairly regardless of their religious, political or other beliefs, and that more needs to be done in the US (and around the world) to ensure that happens.
    On the comments below: I do believe more of these conversations need to happen and I’m thankful our club offers the opportunity for people to safely disagree and express their unique opinions on such important topics.

  • Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne

    Thanks for a thought-provoking and timely presentation. This is a great club to be willing to converse about the topic; not everyone is willing to do so. I do hope that we will continue to seek out diverse speakers, and I know if anyone had suggestions for speakers who can offer additional information on any topic, the club would welcome them.

  • john lozano

    Ariana, welcome to the club!

    Zahra, thank you for your presentation and your efforts in the Bay Area community and beyond.

  • Mark Dohn

    Welcome to the club Arianna! Thank you Zahra for the work you do.

  • Nicole Pham

    Welcome to the club, Ariana!

  • Leanza Tupfer

    Mira Modi’s business creating passwords is amazing, and quite a feat for an 11 year old! I feel surpassed every year by people younger than me every day… keep up the great work, Mira!

  • Brett Sham

    Ariana, again welcome to the club and great introduction video. Always great to see fellow Rotary youth program alumni getting involved and joining Rotary!

    Zahra, thanks for a very informative program on such a topical issue. It was great to be on the recording with you and discuss these issues which clearly, and unfortunately, seem to transcend national boundaries.

    Here in Australia we have many of the same issues with Islamophobia as you do in the United States; for me it’s an issue that hits close to home – the #illridewith you campaign came about here in my home city of Sydney in 2014, with many Muslims fearing for their safety following the terrorist attack in the heart of the city, which took place only blocks away from where I work.

    Not even 10 years before that, another shocking example of Islamophobia here in Sydney was the Cronulla Riots in 2005. The tipping point that caused the riots to flare up was when a person was surrounded by members of the protesting crowd and was attacked, and despite trying to escape and seek refuge and shelter, was dragged back, because he looked Middle Eastern. This then spread to people being physically and verbally attacked on trains and at restaurants and across the city. This was a truly terrifying time here in Sydney, from the initial riot, to retaliations that then continued for several days and nights.

    Islamophobia, as with any kind of discrimination or repression because of the way a person looks, because of their sexuality, or because of what they believe in, is an issue about fundamental human rights, not politics. Here in Australia both of these instances of Islamophobia in Sydney were condemned by political leaders from both sides at state and federal levels.

    Regarding some of the previous comments, I believe that Zahra tried to provide a balanced view – she noted the shortcomings of both Republican and Democrat Presidents in the past with dealing with some of these issues; but she also highlighted some examples of what they both have done well. She also spoke of the fear mongering from both sides of the political divide during last year’s election. Whilst she did state who she supported in the election, I don’t believe she advocated for voting or supporting one candidate or party over the other; however, what she did advocate for was involvement in the democratic process and agitating for change against such an injustice, starting from the grassroots level.

    Zahra also touched on the discrimination, hatred and fear faced by other sections of the community, including the LGBTQI+ (which has been the major topic that has dominated attention in recent months here in Australia whilst the same-sex marriage debate has taken place).

    I hope that as Rotarians, we can all apply the 4-way test when it comes to the need for us to combat Islamophobia.


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Copyright Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley 2015-2017, located in Rotary District 5170 in the sunny Silicon Valley of California, USA. Rotary International club #86428. Inquiries can be sent to [email protected]

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