Silicon Valley Reads 2012

Silicon Valley Reads 2012

By Hasan Zillur Rahim

California’s Silicon Valley is among the most culturally and ethnically diverse regions in the nation. It comprises the quintessential rainbow tapestry, reflected in the various programs held annually to celebrate the region’s diversity.

2012 is the 10th anniversary of Silicon Valley Reads ( This year’s celebration is focused on “Muslim and American: Two Perspectives.” Over 100 events – discussions, panels, films, art exhibits and readings by authors – will occur between now and April, 2012


Among the highlights are two featured books, The Muslim Next Door by Sumbul Ali-Karamali and The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson. The authors have already held book signing programs at various locations in the Bay Area. Willow Wilson also narrated her extraordinary story of conversion recently at the Muslim Community Association of Santa Clara, California.


While the majority of Americans in the area support the “Muslim and American” theme of Silicon Valley Reads 2012, challenges remain. There are those among us who simply will not accept any event or program that tries to show Muslims in a good light. They find it impossible to believe that we are just like any other people, driven by the same concerns and aspirations that constitute normal lives.


As programmers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, cab drivers, engineers, imams, writers, teachers, social workers, we work hard to raise decent families and earn honorable livelihoods. Yet, prejudice and bigotry fester even in progressive and multicultural Silicon Valley. At the kick-off of Silicon Valley Reads on January 25, in which authors Karamali and Wilson participated in a panel discussion on what it means to be a Muslim in post-9/11 America, a handful of protesters were handing out leaflets outside the Campbell Heritage Theatre to warn Americans of the danger that Muslim-Americans pose to this country! Inside, however, was another story. The discussions were civil, the exchanges frank and cordial.


The Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SVIC – is sponsoring projects to introduce Bay Area’s diverse religious groups – Indigenous peoples, Catholics, Protestant and Orthodox Christians, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, B’ahai, Jews, Mormons Sikhs and others – to each other in various places of worship, using the metaphor from Ali-Karamali’s title, The Muslim Next Door.


Other highlights include panel discussions on what it’s like to be the Muslim next door with Mohammad Qayoumi, President of San Jose State University, Muhammed Chaudhry, President of Silicon Valley Education Foundation, and other distinguished Muslim-Americans.


On March 31, a program featuring the poetry of the most popular poet in America – the 13th century mystic Jalaluddin Rumi – will be held at the Visual & Performing Arts Center at De Anza College. There will be readings of Rumi’s poems by Los Gatos Poet Laureate Parthenia Hicks, Cupertino Poet Laureate David Denny and Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Sally Ashton. There will also be several programs for children, teens and families.


Several films will be screened at colleges and libraries throughout the area, including Muhammed: Legacy of Prophet, On a Wing and a Prayer, Prince Among Slaves, Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, Talking Through Walls, and Allah Made Me Funny – Live in Concert.


The Silicon Valley Reads 2012 follows in the wake of the remarkable interactive exhibition called “Islamic Science Rediscovered” at the Tech Museum in San Jose, California, ( The exhibition celebrated “a Golden Age of Science and Technology” when, from the 8th to the 13th century, Muslims led the world in such fields as architecture, arts , astronomy, engineering, exploration, flight, mathematics, medicine, optics and water management.


Silicon Valley Reads 2012 is a testimony to the rich and vibrant culture that animates California’s Santa Clara County. The events are free and for all ages and inspire hope for a peaceful world and a prejudice-free America.