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A Muslim man has made history after becoming the first Muslim chaplain appointed to the California Legislature.
Imam Mohammad Yasir Khan was appointed by Anthony Rendon, speaker of the California State Assembly, on December 7 as the assembly chaplain for the 2021-22 session, according to a news release.
“Imam Yasir Khan represents California’s growing diversity in all the best ways,” Rendon said in a statement.
“I’ve seen the growth of the Islamic community in my own district and have become close to both religious and civic leaders. Like them, Khan shows a strong desire to contribute to the spiritual and civic vitality of California. He has already done so in many ways.”
Khan has served as a chaplain at his local county jails, sheriff’s offices and hospitals for the past six years. He is also the founder and president of the non-profit organization Al-Misbaah.
Al-Misbaah works in collaboration with the Sacramento Food Bank to provide food distributions across Sacramento. The organization also helps provide low income families with vehicles that allows them to become mobile.
“God allowed me to be here and I am humbled and grateful to have been chosen for this role,” Khan told CNN. “I hope this is a step for other imams and other Islamic leaders in the country to take on positions so we are able to connect with our local communities on the county, city, state and federal level.”
The main role of a State Assembly chaplain is to say a prayer at the beginning of each session, but Khan hopes to use this opportunity to bring the community closer together.
“One of the objectives of my life is to develop an understanding that members of the American Muslim community are Americans, we are contributors to society, we care about hunger, we care about poverty,” Khan said.
“I sincerely want to do whatever I can do to show our fellow Americans that we want to celebrate diversity and make this world a better place for everybody. We’re not an exclusive group of people living in America, we are active contributors to society and we care about our communities.”
The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) celebrated Khan’s appointment, and applauded Rendon for “sending a message” that California leaders are paying attention to the contributions of the Muslim community, Basim Elkarra, the executive director of CAIR-Sacramento Valley, told CNN.
“Imam Yasir Khan is an incredible, selfless individual who helps support and feed thousands of families each month through al-Misbaah,” Elkarra said.
“This appointment sends a message of inclusion - that American Muslims are an integral part of our society. Despite all the hate Muslims have faced during four years under Trump’s administration, our community is resilient and continues to help and play critical roles in all aspects of society.”