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Biography of Fazal Mohamed Khan

Biography of Fazal Mohamed Khan, who was born in Punjab in 1907 and settled in California in 1923. With his business partner Namet Khan, Fazal Khan became a successful farmer-businessman specializing in the farming of rice. His farming operation was hampered by legal restrictions that prevented Muslims from owning land; in 1946, these restrictions were removed. The biography states that Khan became the president of the Pakistan National Association, Muslim Association, and Muslim Mosque Location with headquarters in Sacramento.

Business, Religion, Early Immigration

Subject(s): Fazal Mohamed Khan

Fazal Mohamed Khan has found the Sacramento River Valley in California a good place to live. His face glows with sincere intensity when he attempts to describe his feelings about life in the United States as he has found it.

It has been good to him and his fellow Muslims from Pakistan, both socially and economically. Greatest of all, he believes, is the freedom he has found to speak and worship as he pleases.

Born in Punjab province in India in 1907, he came to this country in 1923 at the age of 16. He worked first in California in the asparagus fields in the delta region where the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Rivers converge before flowing into the San Francisco Bay, out through the Golden Gate into the Pacific Ocean. This work in the asparagus fields he now describes as "the hardest work I ever did."

In 1928 he came to Glenn County and worked with other muslim friends who had migrated from India before the establishment of Pakistan. He worked in the rice fields and ventured into the production of rice in 1929 with his late partners, Named and babu Khan. They started with 50 acres, later increasing their acreage to 200 and then to 2,500 acres. Since that time he has become one of the largest and most successful farmer-businessmen in the valley, respected by both the Muslim community of which he is a leader, and by the native born residents.

The farming operation was hampered somewhat in the early years by legal restrictions in California which prevented the Muslims from owning land. But this restriction was removed in 1946 and the partners bought 2,500 acres of land near Butte City. They leased an additional 2,000 to continue their farming operations which centered principally on the production of rice.

It was also in 1946 that the restriction against the immigration of Muslim women was lifted. Prior to this time, only Muslim men were admitted to the country. Most of these, Khan said, preferred to remain single rather than to take a Christian wife.

After the death of his partner, Named Khan, in 1958, he returned for the first time to Pakistan in hopes of finding a wife in his native land. His return with his bride, Bashiran Begun, was the occasion for a huge reception to which he invited not only his Muslim friends, but scores of his friends of the Christian faith in America. Leading public officials, bankers, lawyers, and educators figured prominently on the guest list assembled to pay tribute to his new bride.

His eagerness to introduce his bride to his many friends, both of the Muslim community and those of the Christian faith, nearly overtaxed the facilities at the hotel at which the reception was held. Over 400 crowded into a dining room normally intended to accommodate a maximum of 200. The hotel management bent every effort to meet the wishes of the host, giving mute testimony to the position he had achieved in his adopted land.

This respect and acceptance given him by his American friends and neighbors has prompted his continuing efforts to establish greater good will between Pakistan and America, he said.

He is president of the Pakistan National Association, now known as the Pakistani-American Association. Its chief purpose is to entertain visitors from Pakistan whether they are government officials or visitors in some other capacity. The Khan home is often the locale for dinner parties honoring these distinguished guests. Or if a larger crowd is indicated, receptions may be held at a hotel. The guest list is drawn from Khan's friends of both Muslim and Christian communities. The native dress of the Pakistani women, which they retain, forms a colorful backdrop for such occasions.

As president of the Muslim Association, an organization which provides primarily for appropriate religious rights at the time of death for any person of the Muslim faith, he sees that he association provides financial assistance for such rites if this is found necessary, Khan said.

In addition, he is president of the Muslim Mosque Association with headquarters at Sacramento, the capital city of the State of California. It is here that the Muslim Mosque is located. The Muslim Association is directed by a 25-member board and an Imam, or priest and serves a membership of approximately 400.

Despite the distances involved, this Mosque provides the center of worship and offers its traditional services and rites for all who seek them. While Friday is the accepted day of formal worship and regular services are scheduled then, it is the special days of religious significance which attract the largest number of Muslims with many traveling from other states to attend the services on these occasions, Khan said.

Few, if any, have forsaken their faith upon coming to America, he believes. He attributes this to the freedom of worship which the United States not only allows, but protects and guarantees.

For the most part, few of the Muslim community have taken American wives. Khan said taht the few instances in which they have, either the wife has accepted the Muslim religion or the husband has retained his faith and the wife hers. He knows of no instance in which a Muslim has accepted the Christian faith.

How about the children of such marriages? Here too, he believes the Muslim faith has been retained, but the incidence of intermarriage between the Muslim and Christian faiths has been so low that it is difficult to reach any definite conclusion. Much of the larger percentage of Muslim men have preferred to remain single or return to their native Pakistan and return with a bride from their homeland as he did and as his nephew, Mohamed Aslam Khan has recently done.

Most of the Muslim community have made return trips to their native land, many returning with wives.

As for the second generation Muslims in America, there are still to (sic) few of these to draw any general conclusion, Khan believes, since the women from Pakistan are relative newcomers to America.

He knows of no Muslims in his acquaintance who have changed their faith upon coming to the United States. He sees no reason why this should occur in the future. He and his wife have no children, but obviously they would retain their Muslim faith, he feels.

"With the freedom of worship, the freedom of speech we have in this country there is no problem. We would have no reason to change.

"Many of our friends are of the Christian faith. They have always been wonderful to us. We have been guests in their homes. They have been guests in our home and never has there ever been any attempt by anyone to change or violate our beliefs. They accept us and our religion. We accept them.

"They have always respected our religion and we respect their right to theirs," he concluded.

Collection: Vaishno Das and Kala Bagai Family Materials
Donor: Rani Bagai
Item History: 2013-05-15 (created); 2013-05-27 (modified)

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