Muslim Congressmen Meet with Prince George's County Muslims

Ellison/Carson Dinner

Muslim Congressmen Meet with PG County Muslims,

Urge Political Involvement

“As Americans, it is our job to call our people, and that means being involved,” said Jameel Aalim- Johnson of the Prince George’s County Muslim Council (PGCMC).“The Prophet said, ‘O my people’, when he called them to the deen. He used the words, ‘Oh my people’,” he said. Johnson and the board of the PGCMC had gathered Muslim leaders from Prince George's County to meet the two Muslims congressmen on the hill, Rep Keith Ellison and Rep. Andre Carson,  at the Diyanet Center of America on March 2, 2016.

 

After Maghrib salaah, the Congressman met exclusively with 30 VIP leaders invited for a private session with the politicians. The meet and greet was sponsored by MUSAID in the fountained inner banquet room of Friendship Hall.  

The invitees then moved on to the grand ballroom where a roundtable setting awaited them. Here they were joined by over a 100 members of the Muslim community in Prince George’s county as well as surrounding counties, there to support the work of the Prince George's County Muslim Council and have an intimate discussion with the first two Muslims elected to the United States Congress.  Yasar Colak, President of the Diyanet Center, was also in attendance. 

Congressman Ellison paid tribute to Jameel Johnson for his mentorship during his first days on the Hill. Johnson served as Chief of Staff/Committee Counsel for Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. 

Congressman Ellison represents the Fifth Congressional District of Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives since taking office on January 4, 2007. 

“As much as we hear the Trumps and [Ben] Carsons, the narrative of the Muslim community is positive,” Ellison said, optimistically. “Not a day goes by that we don’t hear that a Muslim is celebrating their son or daughter graduated college, how they opened a business or won a contract.” Bad news tends to get more attention, but there is a lot of good things going on, he stressed. 

Ellison urged local leaders to run for public office in their city and county. “Politics is always local,” he said. He praised the Muslims in Detroit to raised 100,000 to pay water bills for unprivileged neighbors. He mentioned the campaign to raise money for San Bernardino families by Dr Faisal Qazi in California as examples of Muslim blessing the country every single day. He recalled the Muslim run Salam Clinic inside an African American church in Ferguson that had been operating well before the tragedy in Missouri. “If you do good for the sake of Allah, good things will happen,” he said. 

He asked the audience to praise the three Muslim police officers who were on duty at the dinner. 

A succulent Turkish dinner of kofteh, yogurt, sauteed vegetables and Baklava was laid buffet-style.

Serving his 4th full term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Carson was selected for membership on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) which oversees the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the US Intelligence Community.  With a background in law enforcement, Carson worked at the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center, and served in the 113th Congress on the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. “Having one person in there can change the conversation. People may not say something that they would if you weren’t there,” said Johnson.

Both Carson and Ellison are running for office again. They mentioned the candidate that they have endorsed for President. Ellison supports Bernie Sanders and Carson has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Ahmed Bedier of Muslims for Bernie Sanderson also spoke at the event.

Carson was more pragmatic about the current political climate. He acknowledged the rhetoric in this election year. “This should concern you and motivate you to get more engaged in the political process,” There are more than 8 million Muslims in the country and only two Muslims in Congress; we need more. He noted that the American Muslim community raises millions of dollars for Islamic Center structures but have trouble supporting the brother running for city council. “I meet communities who raise $50,000 for their members of Congress who will go on the Congress floor and cast a vote against your and my interests. We are happy that they just show up at our events; that is unacceptable,” he said.  Support Muslim candidates was his clear message.

He also brought up until people in power see Muslims being concerned about domestic issues ie. the broken infrastructure and education system in America and are worried about making America  a better place, Muslims will never get the respect that they deserve as community. 

Carson also urged the involvement of Muslim women in policy making and political landscape.

Johnson announced the first biennial conference entitled, "Faith, Economics, and Politics: The Elements of Community Empowerment" to be held on April 23, 2016 at the Diyanet Center in Lanham, Maryland.  The focus of the conference will be on unifying the Muslim Community in this region to strengthen our political and economic influence.  Panels will include Islamic scholars, elected officials, professional educators, government agencies representatives, Muslim youth and men and women entrepreneurs, according to PGCMC. He urged the attendees to engage with their council and to help register people to vote.

Attendee Nadia Hasan had questions for Congressman Carson on investment in the Muslim community and developing an economic engine for the community. “Real change will not happen until we start pooling our money together,” she added. “Cultural and racial mistrust [in the stead] of a sound business plan,” Carson answered. He suggested starting basic business classes in masajid where Business 101 is taught would be a great start.

A local leader asked how Muslims can get the true number of the Muslim population in the United States, as he has been hearing the same number of Muslims for the past 40 years. 

The topics of Eid as a national holiday, the injustice in the case of Aafia Siddiqui and concern over the Department of Homeland Security controversial Countering Violent Extremism program was brought up. White, the treasurer of PGCMC, asked about the Democratic game plan, in case Donald Trump wins the election. “Donald Trump could be a blessing for the Muslims; he can push us to do what Muslims could not do under President Obama, forcing us to unite,” Carson replied. 

PGCMC President Johnson let the audience know that the council is working on passing the Eid holiday in PG County. Eid is acknowledged onthe PG County School District calendar for several years. 

The night ended in photo ops and one on one time with Congressman Carson for the attendees.

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