PG Muslims Launch Council for Political, Civic Engagement

Following a regional trend over the last 5 years, Maryland Muslims in Prince George’s county formed the Prince George’s County Muslim Council (PGCMC), holding their first “community meeting” on Saturday, February 9.

The aim of the meeting according to PGCMC President Jameel Aalim-Johnson was to solicit the active involvement from Islamic centers located in PG county, and to ask representatives in attendance “what it would take to get a buy-in” from their congregations.

Held at the Prince George’s Muslim Association (PGMA) in Lanham, about 15 people attended, representing PGMA, the Islamic Community Center of Laurel, and Dar-us-Salaam. Organizers said they made attempts to contact all centers and masajid in PG county.

PGCMC follows the trend of forming “Muslim Councils” at the county level in Maryland. The councils – already active in eight counties including Baltimore, Howard, and Montgomery – engage with local politicians and participate in civic, social, and humanitarian activities. Over the last few years, Maryland’s “Muslim Councils” have held fundraisers for local politicians, put together ‘meet the candidate’ forums, and organized blood and canned food drives among other undertakings.

Aalim-Johnson told the representatives PGCMC will be a way of giving da’wa [introducing Islam] to politicians and the general public, and also will help masajid benefit from political access.

The fast growth of masajid around the region has put many Islamic centers at logger heads with neighbors who are impacted by increased traffic and overflowing parking lots. “Political influence will help in problems like expanding parking lots,” said Aalim-Johnson.

While everyone recognized the benefits of a Muslim council in PG county, some cautioned against allowing members to benefit personally from the influence that might be gained through political involvement.
PGMA Imam Karim Abu Zaid, who delivered a short talk reminding representatives to hold the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah above political expediency. “[This council] should not be for personal gain, otherwise it will fail,” said Imam Karim.

The role of area Imams and Islamic scholars in the PGCMC was one of the main points of discussion during the nearly 3-hour meeting. Many representatives felt the by-laws should include an Islamic oversight component to ensure PGCMC decisions stay within the bounds of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Currently, the new county council is using the same by-laws governing the other Muslim councils in Maryland.

Membership in the council was another issue raised. Currently, membership is open to any Muslim living in PG County. One representative suggested masajid be given a greater say in the affairs of the PGCMC than normal, individual members.

Aalim-Johnson said the PGCMC Board of Directors will meet to discuss the suggested additions to the by-laws. At this point, PGCMC is encouraging Islamic centers in PG County to express their support for the new organization, which is a registered non-profit entity.

The officers of the PGCMC are: Jameel Aalim-Johnson (President), Maher Kharma (Vice-President), Sister Romana Kerns (Secretary), and Ahmad Gharib (Treasurer). The council has also selected a seven member Board of Directors.


-- Reprinted with permission from The Muslim Link

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