In tense times, a hand toward friendship | News | Palo Alto Online |


In tense times, a hand toward friendship

Palo Alto's Muslim Eid Festival to bring all faiths, cultures together for community, sharing

With political fear-mongering on the rise since the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, members of the Palo Alto Muslim community are reaching out to their neighbors with messages of tolerance, understanding and peace.

The Second Annual Eid Festival, which celebrates a Muslim holiday tradition, will take place Saturday, Dec. 19, 1-4 p.m. It is being sponsored by American Muslim Voice (AMV) Foundation at the First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, 625 Hamilton Ave. People of all faiths and cultures are welcome, said Samina Sundas, AMV Foundation's founding executive director and a Palo Alto resident.

The event will feature a Pakistani lunch, desserts from around the world, a photo booth with ethnic dress, henna decorating and music. This year, the event will also encourage people of Christian and Jewish faiths to share their own holiday traditions during a three-way panel discussion.

The event is co-sponsored by a City of Palo Alto "Know Your Neighbors" grant.

Sundas, who is a Santa Clara County Human Relations commissioner, and American Muslim Voice have sought to build relationships with non-Muslim groups and individuals through the group's "From Fear to Friendship" programs since 9/11.

"To build a beloved community, we must know our neighbors. This year we need to host this event more than ever," Sundas said.

Former Palo Alto Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto, who plans to go to the Eid festival, said she has attended several past From Fear to Friendship events.

"Muslim Americans are in a similar situation as Japanese Americans were in World War II. I have a lot of empathy for them. My gut instinct is we need more community interaction, especially among people who don't have Muslim American friends, just to get to know them," Kishimoto said.

For Sundas, the hateful rhetoric coming from presidential candidates like Donald Trump has been distressing after years of working to push the conversation toward more productive outcomes.

"I keep believing it will work out eventually," she said.

But when a Sacramento reporter recently asked her to make a statement regarding the recent murders by husband-and-wife extremists in San Bernardino, the implication cut deep for the gentle and soft-spoken Sundas.

"I don't know that fool (in San Bernardino). He didn't ask my permission (to represent me)" or other Muslims through his acts, she said.

"Can you tell me, when a Christian boy went into the church and killed all of those people (the June 17 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina), did you ask all the Christians to make a statement?" she asked.

"Since the day I came to America I have served in soup kitchens; I have served on school boards and in the Stanford Hospital emergency room; I have organized for peace. I adopted this country as my home. I love this country, but I should not have to say it. I believe that my actions speak louder than my words ever could. And when (you ask me to offer an explanation) it makes me feel that you just pushed me out of being an American," she said.

But Sundas still has faith in her community and the power to change hearts and minds.

Events such as the Eid Festival "do just the opposite" of the demonizing that is translating into hate crimes against Muslims, Arabs and South Asians across the nation, she said.

"Our guests saw Muslims in a very different light as loving mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles at our first Eid Festival. The event did exactly what we thought it will do. Our only weapon is to provide Muslim experience to our fellow Americans by meeting them face to face," she said.

"I wanted to share with the world how we do things here in California. We support, accept, respect and like each other because we speak to each other and every day we are trying to get to know one another an little bit better," she added.

The event was so popular last December that Sundas must limit admission to the luncheon to about 250 participants this year, she said. But many more can attend the other cultural events and panel discussion, since the venue holds up to 500 people, she said.

Anyone wanting to attend the luncheon can register at Search for Eid festival (celebration of Muslim holidays). More information is available at

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


14 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2015 at 10:56 am

Thank you Samina Sundas for this event that will foster respect and caring across cultures!

9 people like this
Posted by Lulu
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2015 at 11:47 am

I love Samina Sundas' response to the Sacramento reporter. I pray this event brings unity, understanding, new friendships, and respect across cultures.

2 people like this
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2015 at 12:40 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

I'm looking forward to attending on Saturday and am grateful for all that Samina and American Muslim Voice are doing to help us all know each other better. I'm also looking forward to being on a panel to share what Christmas means to Christians.

2 people like this
Posted by Chris Lundin
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm

I congratulate Samina and American Muslim Voice for organizing this second Eid Festival. While I cannot attend myself, I hope many others are able to meet their neighbors.

10 people like this
Posted by Richard Duda
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2015 at 1:28 pm

These are trying times, not only for Muslim Americans but for all of us, particularly for anyone who cares about human rights. It is easy to spread fear and divisiveness, as too many political leaders seem to be doing. It is heartening to hear about efforts like this to bring us together. I wish Ms. Sundas great success with this festival. It may be just a small step, but it is a step in the right direction.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2015 at 1:46 pm

This just proves that we must learn about each other's religions rather than play the "my God is better than your God" game. The more we know about each other, the less we feel threatened about what we don't know or understand.

I wish the schools would teach about the different religions. Just pretending that ignoring religion is a good thing for schools, is wrong. In the world in which we live, understanding the differences is part of being educated. We teach about sexual transmitted diseases, about tolerance for same sex and transgender issues, about drugs, about tolerance and the evils of bullying and cyber bullying. The idea is that the more we know the less likely we will be threatened by it. Why don't we follow the same rationale about teaching about the world's major religions?

We as people are often afraid of what we don't know. The more we learn the less we will be afraid.

Thank you for doing this and please can we have a lot more education about religion. Teaching about our similarities rather than what divides us should be part of education.

3 people like this
Posted by Craig Wiesner
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Gatherings like this help build bonds that are stronger than ignorance and fear. Thank you American Muslim Voice for hosting this event.

6 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2015 at 3:44 pm

[Post removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2015 at 4:45 pm

PA mom is a registered user.

This is a great event and a great idea. I wish them much support.

12 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Curmudgeon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2015 at 8:19 pm

I wish Ms. Sundas well. However, she has to consider reflecting on why Muslims engage in disproportionately more acts of terrorism around the world.

9 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2015 at 10:42 pm

@ Crescent Park Curmudgeon

Actually they don't: 90% of a ll terror acts in the US are committed by non-muslims Web Link

I you think that is higher than their percentage of the population, Google the # of catholic terror attacks in Indonesia! Mind boggling.

The NYT had this great collection of hateful quotes everybody was convinced they were from the quran. Wrong again, they were from the Bible. Even Jesus babbles that he comes with the sword!

11 people like this
Posted by Vigilant Electorate
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2015 at 10:44 pm

Vigilant Electorate is a registered user.

I am glad Ms. Sundas is promoting peace and tolerance. I hope that she and the American Muslim Voice will also step up arm-and-arm with the community and join the fight against radical Islam.

We have reason for concern because there are currently religious theocracies or movements in Iran, Afghanistan/Pakistan, the Levant and Africa actively exporting terrorism, promoting extremism and seeking the destruction of Israel.

In addition, there is a conservative form of Sunni Wahhabism that is being funded and exported around the world that is fundamentally incompatible with our democratic, economic and cultural principles They have historical scripture, the most senior council of religious scholars and control of the two most holy Sunni sites at Mecca and Medina on their side. Their mission is to spread the strictest (most pure) form of Islam to both Muslims and non-Muslims and anybody not adhering to their interpretation is considered an apostate or infidel. [Portion removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 16, 2015 at 6:58 am

Most of the terror attacks in the US are committed by "Christian" terrorists:attacks of family planning clinics, black churches, etc. Should all Christians be tainted by their actions? Should all Jews be implicated by the actions of the Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein who murdered so many praying Muslims in Hebron? Islamic terrorism is a very serious problem but it it is committed and supported by a tiny fraction of the 1.2 billion Muslims around the world. Saudi Arabia is a major supporter and backer of Wahhabism, yet the US has very strong relations with that country. Blaming an entire population for the actions of a very extreme minority is wrong and immoral.

2 people like this
Posted by jet pilot
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 16, 2015 at 1:40 pm

This sounds like a wonderful event. We should be welcoming Syrian and Iraqi refugees to our country with open arms. The correct response to fear is love...

1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 16, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm

If we consider attacks on family planning clinics, militia murders, the Oklahoma City federal building bombing by McVey and his accomplices and random gun massacres all over the country, which tragically, then, according to the logic of Slow down, all gun owners, Christians and people who oppose abortions should be associated with domestic terrorism. Those acts kill many more Americans than Islamic terrorism on US soil. I also wish Muslims would be more vocal in their opposition to Jihadism, but GOP candidates go out of their way to not condemn family planning clinic shootings and other right wing murderous violence, just like settler violence in the Israeli occupied territories is not condemned, and sometimes even lauded by Israeli extreme right wing politicians. 20 years ago, a Palo Alto ultra orthodox rabbi refused to condemn the assassination of Izchak Rabin, because in his words, Rabin betrayed God and the Jewish people by willing to trade occupied territories for peace.

Every Muslim I know in this area is horrified by islamic terrorism and appalled by it. If we treat American muslims the way Donald trump and his ilk suggest, some young Muslim Americans will be pushed into the arms of Jihadist groups and all of us will be far less secure.

1 person likes this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 16, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 16, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:18 am

I don't know what slow down said.
But maybe he said what European Newspapers from " Le Monde" to "The Guardian" to the "Sueddeutesche Zeitung" write (in their English Edition, so you can read it ,too):

Due to American terror war in Iraq 100,000 Iraqis died.
Bush put the murderous Maliki Government into power, and then "negotiated" quickly a total withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2008, just before Obama became President.

The Syrian disaster is a consequence of the US upsetting the little balance between different religions and tribes there was.

It was German Chancellor Merkel who armes and traines the Kurds.

Europeans are astounded about American Hypocrisy; a country which has in the average 29 DAILY murders due to NRA sponsored gun terror of neighbor against neighbor (that is how Europeans see it), gets so bend out of shape because of the ONE-TIME 14 murders BY deranged Islamists, that is refuses to admit children refugees from Syria.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Pluto's appears to close after more than two decades in downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 14 comments | 7,030 views

What Local Teens are Saying
By Sherry Listgarten | 19 comments | 2,823 views

Plastic vegie bag ban: Pragmatic? -- or simply politically correct?
By Diana Diamond | 35 comments | 2,102 views

Edible Education – Free Course - UC Berkeley Online
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,338 views

Letting Christmas Linger
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 548 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 26 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $7 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.