By Miriam Raftery
October 8, 2009 (Lemon Grove) – Community leaders gathered at the Masjid Usman-Center for Religious Tolerance in Lemon Grove on Saturday to honor Dr. Abdussattar “Sattar” Shaikh, co-founder of the Islamic Center of San Diego. State and city leaders as well as representatives from the Sheriff’s Department and San Diego State University all praised Shaikh’s leadership in fostering multi-cultural understanding and religious tolerance.
“He has helped Muslims from all over the world form a thriving community, even in times of adversity,” said Lemon Grove Councilman George Gastil, who organized the event and issued a commendation on behalf of Lemon Grove. “We honor you, Dr. Shaikh, for the love and devotion you have shown to your adopted country. You have touched countless lives."
Born in India in 1935, Shaikh left his war-torn homeland after India was divided into what is now three nations: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He came to San Francisco and arrived in San Diego in 1970 during the month of Ramadan. “He did not know any Muslims that he could join with the break the fast,” Gastil noted, “so he began calling Muslim-sounding names in the phone book. Within a week, he had gathered fifty Muslims at a local warehouse.”
Since then, Shaikh co-founded the Union of Pan Asian Communities and the Inter-Religious Council of San Diego. He served for eight years on the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices and also served as an Honorary Deputy Sheriff from 1971-1995. Active in the National Conference of Christians and Jews, which later became the National Conference on Community and Justice, he has also been trained as a chaplain in the Red Cross.
In Lemon Grove, however, he is best known as founder of the Masjid Usman Center for Religious Tolerance, which serves as a mosque and gathering place for many people including recent immigrants from Somalia, Kurdistan, and Afghanistan.
Assemblyman Marty Block presented Dr. Shaikh with a commendation from the State Assembly recognizing his achievements. Khaleel Mohammed, faculty representative from San Diego State University’s Department of Religious Studies, was also on hand to honor Shaikh’s efforts. In addition, a Sgt. Dave Pocklington represented Sheriff Bill Gore, praising Shaikh for his actions to combat hate crimes, particularly in the post-911 era.
In accepting his awards, Dr. Shaikh thanked those in attendance and urged all present to “Keep on doing good works, and don’t ever let it stop.”