PG Muslims Meet County Executive Hopefuls At Forum

With elections only weeks ago, Prince George’s County county executive hopefuls are looking for block votes and endorsements. This election cycle, the Muslim community is on their list.

On Friday evening, August 6, 2010, about 170 Muslim residents of the county gathered at the Prince George’s Muslim Association in Lanham to interact with four men and one woman vying to lead PG County as the County Executive.

The forum came just one week after another candidate forum for PG County Council District 1 and State’s Attorney candidates, jointly organized by Al-Huda School in College Park, the Islamic Community Center of Laurel, and the Prince George’s County Muslim Council (PGCMC). The county executive candidate forum was organized by PGCMC. About 25 non-Muslim county residents also attended.

In attendance were State Delegate Ms. Gerron Levi, Sheriff Michael A. Jackson, Councilman Samuel Dean, Rushern Baker, and Henry Turner. Only absent was PG County Councilman for District 8 Tony Knotts.

After opening with some verses from the Qur’an, each candidate gave a four minute opening statement. The main portion of the 2-hour event was devoted to moderator questions to the candidates on issues like crime, minority rights, and public schooling. Audience members passed up index cards with their questions and candidates were allowed three minutes to answer. On the issue of slots, all the county executive candidates said they were opposed to raising revenue through gambling except Henry Turner who said he would do what people wanted.

PGCMC president Jameel Aalim-Johnson moderated the forum.

Although PGCMC strongly advocates Muslim participation in the upcoming local and state elections, the non-profit group is barred from endorsing particular candidates due to their 501(c)3 tax classification. So, Muslim voters are left to examine the candidates on their own, or follow unofficial endorsements being discussed within the community.

Asked if he feels the forum achieved its goals, Aalim-Johnson said just the presence of all the major county executive candidates was an achievement in itself.

“Success in this case refers to candidates thinking enough of the Muslim community to make certain they attended. All the candidates were present. It also means the community being present to show the candidates they care about who runs their government, and the positions that candidates hold on a variety of issues, particularly those directly related to the quality and way of life of the Muslim community,” explained Aalim-Johnson, who worked on Capitol Hill as the Chief of Staff for a New York congressman over the last decade.

The forum ended with a short prayer and some remarks about Islam and the Muslim community. Aalim-Johnson said the environment was one of mutual respect and neighborliness; non-Muslim women including candidate Levi were respectful of masjid protocols and willingly donned a head covering.

-- Reprinted with permission from The Muslim Link

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