Bravery in action during the annual Muslim Day at the Capitol

Jeff vonKaenel

April 25 was the annual Muslim Day at the Capitol. Now, I have never attended any of the previous Muslim Days, sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, but trying to make America actually great again, I decided to go to the opening ceremonies held at the west end of Capitol Park.

The first thing I noticed were the buses. Then I turned the corner and saw the large crowd. Then I noticed that about half of the people attending the event were teenagers.

They were not dressed in the usual bright T-shirts proclaiming their school, but instead wore more grown-up clothes. And these kids had their game faces on. They were there to get something done.

Curious, I pulled out my reporter’s notebook. These notebooks have magnetic powers. They can either attract people or repel them. Today, the notebook had its mojo going, and soon I had seven young Southern California Muslim women talking to me about why they decided to take a nine-hour bus ride to Sacramento.

They were here to meet with the state Legislature about numerous bills. One key bill was Assembly Bill 2845, the Safe Place to Learn Act, which promotes strategies to address bullying in schools, including bullying on the basis of religious affiliation or perceived religious affiliation.

I asked the girls if they had been bullied. They said yes, very politely, very calmly, as if I had asked them if the sun rises in the morning. They told me people had pulled off their headscarves. Six of the seven were wearing headscarves now. They said they were constantly being asked if they were terrorists.

One young lady could not count the times that she has been told to go back to her own country. She then explained, in a natural, native Los Angeles accent, “This is my country. I was born here. I have no other country to go back to.”

I was instantly impressed with my small Los Angeles focus group. They were smart, articulate and polite, the type of kids every parent dreams of having. And then it dawned on me that these young girls, instead of dressing in the latest fashion, were putting on headscarves before they went into the jungle we call junior high. For their faith, and for their family, they were willing to set themselves apart. Even if it meant setting themselves up for abuse.

I was blown away. I remember junior high. There is a tremendous desire to fit in. These brave, young women are wise beyond their age.

These young women, along with about 600 other Muslims, met with 90 legislators and their staff. Sacramento Assemblymember Kevin McCarty told me, “I was happy to meet with the Council on American-Islamic Relations on their legislative priorities. It was concerning to hear how bullying is a serious issue for children in their community and I am proud to support their legislative efforts to provide resources for Muslim students that are bullied at school.”

And I am proud just to have been lucky enough to meet these extraordinary young women. There are those who say that they are trying to “make America great again.” At the Muslim Day at the Capitol, I met with a group of young women who I believe actually can make America great again.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.