U.S. Rep. Hoyer Meets with Prince George's County Muslims

US Congressional Rep Hoyer Meets with Prince George's Muslims

Usually when politicians come to masajid, they are given the pulpit and make promises and leave. In a rare but crucial roundtable meeting organized by the Prince George�'s County Muslim Council, several Prince George's County community leaders met with Congressman Steny H. Hoyer of the Fifth District to discuss vital issues of concern on April 29, 2016 after Jummah at the Prince George's Muslim Association.

Constituents from Bowie, College Park, Lanham, Laurel, Greenbelt, and Capitol Heights attended the roundtable.

Imam Ahmad Azzaari of the PGMA led with dua and a brief overview of American Muslims, anti-Muslim bigotry and Islam. 

Jameel Aalim-Johnson, President of PGMC, introduced the representative. As House Democratic Whip for the 114th Congress, Hoyer is the second-ranking member of the House Democratic leadership. Rep. Keith Ellison, who is a Muslim congressman from Minnesota and Chief Deputy Whip, accompanied him to PGMA. Also in attendance was Maryland State Senator JoAnn Benson

Keith Ellison extolled the participants that the American system was made to be lobbied. "If you do not engage with the system, the system will keep rolling it just wont have your point of view in it,î he said. Legislators do not know what you think is the right thing," he added. "If you call and reach out you may not get everything you want as soon as you want it but, InshaíAllah, you will get what you wantÖwith patience," said Congressman Ellison.

He called the meeting an excellent step. 

Congressman Hoyer has helped bring health coverage to under privileged Marylanders and has spearheaded an effort to invest in creating new jobs in Maryland and across the country through Democratsí Make It In America plan.

"America has always been bedeviled by those who want to sow hate rather than love," said Congressman Hoyer, who is from a first generation Danish immigrant family. "There is no country that is immune to prejudice and hatred and violence," he added. Immigrants are most courageous, entrepreneurial, risk-taking people from around the world, who left family, language and culture for opportunity and ability to improve their lot, he said, but face prejudice if they are in sizable numbers.

"I am a Baptist and a lot of the Ku Klux Klan are Baptist. Does that mean I am a terrorist?" he asked, sympathizing with the sentiments of the participants. He said that he came out to hear from his constituents. "I am worried about this presidential campaign which is stoking prejudice, anger and that violence against each other is acceptable," he stressed.  

No peace without justice was a point brought up by attendees. 

The chairman of the Somali American Community organization, Ahmed Elmi, brought up the issue of 2000 Somali and 3000 Bengali asylum seekers who are languishing in ICE prisons for over three years. "Is there a way for non-profits to find the next of kin and connect them to families?" he asked. He quoted a recent Muslim Link article on this issue for reference. Elmi suggested expanding the Temporary protected status (TPS) for asylum seekers so they donít sit in prisons and take drastic measures to come into the U.S. illegally. "When things get better in their country they can return," he suggested. The Congressmen asked the organization to send a list of the names of men so he can find out the status for their families. 

Amongst the topics of concern that were brought up by the PGMC was the recognition of Eid holidays and closing of schools on these holidays. Although this was not a federal issue, Johnson believes that voices from the top will help support the conversation. "This is a way that other students can understand their [Muslim classmates] when schools are closed on their holidays."

State Senator Benson gave suggestions on better community engagement with Annapolis as well as the local school board. She gave her support and urged the Muslims leaders to convene a meeting with those who make decisions in PG County in a local masjid. "Invite them here," she stressed.  PGMC pledged to follow up as they had on the issue of praying in school.

As Congressman Hoyer sits on the Transportation, Treasury and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee and is a national leader on issues affecting Federal employees and retirees, Johnson of PGMC made a rallying call for halal investment options for Muslim pensioners.  "As Muslims there are certain things we cannot invest in,"he informed the elected officials, "but the investment decisions are made by the company or municipality or state etc.

"That could become really complex Öin the implementation," replied the Congressman. One of the sisters attending the roundtable suggested adding halal alternatives to the mix, instead of reinventing the wheel specifically for Muslims.

Jameelah Malik, a teacher from High Bridge Elementary School in Prince Georgeís County, who was selected as an Irreplaceable Teacher in the school district for her hard work and dedication in March 2016, was met with applause as she greeted the Congressman. 

Imam Talib Abdul-Samad of IRHSCA brought up his concerns about transgender legislation.  The roundtable was followed by an informal internal discussion about cutting edge issues facing the Muslim community. 

The Congressman was asked to supports resolution on the recognition of Islamophobia and concerns about the CVE program were reiterated by community members. Constituents also brought up legislation being drawn up by Congressman Don Beyer in Virginia and asked the Rep. Hoyer for his support. 

On May 13, 2016, the "Freedom of Religion Act" was announced and Congressman Hoyer was a co sponsor. In a statement he said,"I'm proud to cosponsor Rep. Beyerís bill, which makes clear that the United States does not discriminate based on religion. Regardless of what Donald Trump may think, barring members of a particular religious group from entering the country is unconstitutional and would never be supported by Congress or the courts."

Those seeking to come to our country are doing so for the same reason as so many who came before them ñ because they want a better future for themselves and their children. Many are refugees, now fleeing the violence and intolerance of extremist groups like ISIL, which murders those who do not adhere to its radical beliefs and practices.

"I hope House Republicans will join with us as cosponsors of this bill to send a strong message of support for our Constitution and the freedoms we hold dear and that have sustained us for generations," Hoyer said.

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