Muslims Unite To Have Conversations About Islamophobia
This weekend: in a coordinated, cross-county effort, Montgomery County's Muslim community organized two major events to discuss the dangers of Islamophobia. On Saturday: the Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County held an all-star panel discussion about Combating Islamophobia in Montgomery Village. On Sunday evening, the Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA), the national Shiite umbrella organization, hosted a panel discussion regarding Islamophobia & the Elections featuring two candidates for federal office.
Candidates Woo Muslim Votes
Both events had sellout crowds, with candidates and elected officials from no less than a dozen jurisdictions at the county, municipal, state and federal levels attending each event to much fanfare from event participants. In particular, Democratic candidates sought to build relationships with Muslim voters, speaking at both events at length about their long engagements with the Muslim community.
An estimated 100,000 Muslims live in Montgomery County, making them a huge swing constituency in this year's primary elections on April 26th. Hillary Clinton's campaign has made sure to include a Muslim-American on the ballot. Nadia Syahmalina is the first Indonesian-American woman to be on the ballot anywhere in the country, and the first Muslim to appear on a ballot in the sixth congressional district. SImilarly, senatorial candidate Donna Edwards has barn-stormed at mosques across the state, and even held a fundraiser last December at the home of a very influential Iranian-American community leader in Potomac, Maryland. Not to be outdone, her opponent Chris Van Hollen recently hired a Pakistani-American to be his campaign's regional field-director for Montgomery County. Van Hollen was also born in Karachi, Pakistan, and has lobbied hard for the Pakistani vote in Maryland.
Uniting a Community By Ending Prejudice
This weekend was the first time in state history that cross-denominational organizing regarding political matters has taken place. As part of a campaign spearheaded by the Muslim Democratic Club, but involving nearly every Islamic congregation in Montgomery County, a drive is being made by an ethnically diverse set of young activists in the Muslim community to dismantle the sectarian and racial divide in the Muslim community. The divide was established by largely Sunni Pakistani-immigrant hardliners who run many of the region's Muslin institutions. Those hardliners belong to an older, less religiously and racially tolerant generation. The campaign to unite the ethnically diverse Muslim community of Montgomery County has caught fire in recent months, largely due to the Muslim Democratic Club's efforts to be an inclusive, safe space for Muslims of all backgrounds. The Muslim Democratic Club is the county's premier Muslim political advocacy organization.
Earlier this year, #OurThreeSisters was covered by mainstream media, regarding the historic campaign launched by the same group of diverse, young Muslim community activist to elect three Muslim women to office in Montgomery County. You can read Washington Times columnist Rahat Hussain's article about that movement by clicking here.
March 19th's Muslim Democratic Club event:
Rabia Chaudry: Senior CVE Consultant, past fellow at New America Foundation & Advocate for Adnan Sayed (of NPR's Serial podcast fame)
Wajahat Ali: former chief political correspondent of Al Jazeera America, nationally acclaimed playwright & interfaith activist
Shahed Amanullah: serial entrepreneur (creator of Zabihah app), former advisor to Sec of State /Hillary Clinton, founder of Affinis Labs
Hannah Shraim: community activist, social media celebrity & high school student featured in an upcoming edition of Teen Vogue
Moderator Mehreen Farooq: senior researcher at WORDE, globally recognized lecturer on Muslim Affairs
March 20th's UMAA event:
Zahra Naqvi: Community Organizer, Interfaith Activist & Attorney
Dr. Sayed Nakshwani: Imam Ali Chair of Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary
Glenn Ivey: Democratic congressional candidate for CD-4
Donna Edwards: Democratic primary candidate for U.S. Senate
Moderator Rahat Hussain: Washington Times Columnist, UMAA Senior Policy Analyst
NOTE: Incidentally, Rep. Edwards was not originally on the panel on Sunday night, but was invited to join the panelists when it became evident that Rep. Van Hollen would not attend the event half-way through the evening.
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