PGCMC Invites Elected Officials to PGMA

Elected Officials at PGMA

On Sunday, December 7th, approximately 40 brothers and sisters filled classroom #2 at the Prince George’s Muslim Association to hear from their elected officials in county and state government.  State Senator Joanne Benson, and new State Delegate Elect Erek Barron of District 24, and newly elected County Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros of District 3 spent a productive afternoon at PGMA introducing themselves and their legislative priorities while learning about the needs and concerns of the Muslim community.  The forum was organized by the Prince George’s County Muslim Council (PGCMC), one of several Muslim councils in Maryland organized to engage the Muslim community in the political and civic affairs of the county.

After Imam Azzaare gave the elected officials an overview of Islam, State Senator Benson, the senior legislator of the group, having served in the state legislature since 1991, talked about her extensive background as an educator.  She stated as her priorities improving education, transportation, and healthcare in the county and economic development projects such as the purple line, the State Housing Authority facility and trying to get the FBI into Greenbelt or Landover.

She next introduced State Delegate Elect Erek Barron emphasizing his rise from difficult financial times as the child of a single mother to having received two law degrees from George Washington and Georgetown to now becoming an elected official.  Erek concurred with the State Senator on priorities for the county and included his interest in small business development.

County Councilwoman Danielle Glaros had just been sworn in to her seat the previous Monday.  Having spent the past several years as Chief of Staff to outgoing Councilman Olsen, she was returning to PGMA as an old friend having visited with her former boss on previous occasions.  She received her Masters from the University Of Maryland School Of Public Policy and is a former Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Parris Glendening. Councilwoman Glaros spoke of working cooperatively with the State officials on the aforementioned priorities.

Questions from the PGMA community started with asking the elected officials if they support closing public schools on the Eid holidays.  According to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute, in the State of Maryland, 3% of the population self identifies as Muslim; the same percentage as those who self identify as Jewish.  Prince George’s County Schools are closed for two Jewish Holidays.

Senator Benson explained that the state provides the schools with their budget but how it is spent is up to each school board.  She encouraged the community to meet with their local school board member to discuss the issue.  PGCMC will be following up with the members of the school board.

A lively question and answer session continued with questions about police/community relations, availability of affordable housing, late hours of drive thru liquor stores, the need for more community medical clinics and the demonization of Muslims through state and federal laws.  Senator Benson strongly emphasized that if you want to make change you have to do it as a group and you have to be persistent.

“To see the representatives there is a step forward for the community. I got a lot of my questions answered.  There were a lot more community members there than I thought would be, and I am hopeful our community will work to make improvement for Prince George’s County” stated Munir Abdul Latif, a long time PGMA member.  Nadia Hassan, a resident of Greenbelt who attended the forum stated, “It is time for the vast majority of American Muslims to stand up and be part of the fabric of this nation and contribute to a better America and a better world.  I would like to thank PGCMC for facilitating a conversation with our local, elected officials and I encourage all to join and participate”.

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