The event started by an introductory speech by Dr. Faheem Younas, President of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baltimore Chapter. He thanked all the guests, especially Muslims from other mosques. He mentioned that our hospitality is simply in the tradition of Holy Prophet Mohammad, with no strings attached. He gave a brief intro to the program and direction to the facilities in the Mosque.
Senator Ben Cardin started his speech by reiterating his resolution to work against intolerance in the society. He mentioned that Muslims have been part of American fabric since the time of George Washington. He was disappointed at the language of some of the current presidential candidates. He mentioned that faith is important source of courage for himself and for millions of Americans.
He mentioned that he is member of Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and he is also member of Helsinki Commission. He mentioned that anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise in Europe. He mentioned that how human dimension of the issue relates to the security and economics of a country. He is also dealing with the issue of Syrian refugees. Number of refugees are now equivalent to the number after WW2.
He also mentioned his disappointment at the rhetoric of declaring victims of extremism as a security threat. He said that we should allow more refugees and should not create unnecessary hurdles for them. He said that USA should allow more refugees. He said that radicalization is spreading among many groups in America. We have to recognize this problem. He mentioned that USA becomes more strong with strong Muslim American community. He has visited mosques many times. In the end he said that he would like to work with Muslim Communities.
The first question from the audience was from a Muslim brother from Anne Arundel County who mentioned that American Govt delayed their action to disrupt the financial network of ISIS. He said that USA should have acted in 2012 and should have disrupted the flow of oil from ISIS territory and inflow of arms to ISIS. He said that too many mistakes have been made and Muslims in USA suffer from the suffering of Syrian refugees. He said that USA has the ability to stop internet access of ISIS and it should use that ability. He also mentioned that Russia should be stopped from bombing of Syrian people.
Senator agreed that mistake have been made in the past and root cause of the issue is the invasion of Iraq and subsequent mistakes in siding with some groups. He said that King Abdullah of Jordon has mentioned that if America gets too much involved in the war, many Muslims will consider it as a new type of crusade. He said that Muslims Government should organize themselves to fight against ISIS. He said that there is no military solution to this problem. He said that ISIS also makes money by kidnapping for ransom, and looting antiquities and selling oil. He said that USA is working on all the three issues. He said that we have worked with Iran and Russia to resolve issues. He also mentioned that Pakistan has played positive role in reducing tensions.
Next question was from Mansoor Shams of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He mentioned that he is a marine and many other Muslims serve USA in many other ways, but somehow this fact is ignored. Similarly Baghdadi who is a terrorist in mentioned as Khalifa all the time but the Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad who is the Khalifa of Islam and a positive force is not mentioned. Senator said the solution is to put faces to the problems. He said that statistics are very boring, but people and their stories resonate with other people. He said that so many injustices have been addressed by putting a human face to the issue.
Next questioner asked Senator to elaborate more on his bill related to racial profiling. Senator mentioned that bill not only addresses the issue of racial profiling, but also of religious and ethnic profiling. He said that he wants to make this a national law. Right now laws exist but they are not present at local level and are not uniform across the states. He also mentioned that many in the law enforcement agencies support this bill. He said that despite some opposition in Senate there is a good chance that this law will pass.
Next question was asked by a Muslim sister, Nasreen, who has been working for State of Maryland for almost 30 years. She mentioned that there is lot of discrimination against Hijab. Students have complained about the bullying in school because of their faith. In some incidences, some people tried to pull hijab of Muslim girls in public transport. Many women have stopped wearing hijabs because of hostility towards it. Senator said that solution is to teach tolerance in school. He said that he has tried to convince French authorities that to teach tolerance and understanding in school. Kids of younger age can learn things.
Next question was asked by sister Huma Ziad about usage of different funds to help minorities. Senator mentioned that he is against giving directive on how to use such funds. He believed that people should be able to make decisions on how these funds needs to be used.
Next question was from Mujahid Mohammad who is working to encourage Muslims to vote. He mentioned his efforts and asked Senator how Muslims can get into different chambers. Senator mentioned that Muslims should come up with strategy and try to be part of as many organizations. He said that he doesn’t believe in quotas. Mujahid asked two more questions about financial resources to run some programs and invited the senator to one of his meetings.
Next Idrees Khan asked what is democratic party doing to help Muslims. He mentioned that he has volunteered with different democratic campaigns and yet he feels that Democrats do a l lot of talking but don’t walk the walk when it comes to include Muslims in political process. Senator responds that Democrats have worked on many issues related to Muslims. Even now President Obama is visiting a mosque.
In the end Dr. Faheem thanked guests and mentioned that Muslims are not just cab drivers or terrorists but belong to diverse groups and are present in all walks of life. Senator gave closing remarks that education is the key to many social evils and school system can play a very important role.
In the end guests enjoyed a hearty lunch and program ended with Zuhr prayers.