Annual Essay Panel Contest A Brotherly, Sisterly Event

Community News
It is a cold morning on January 26, 2013 as the empty halls of PGMA begin to slowly fill up with excited kids and their parents. There are over 100 participants in this year’s EPC competition- the Essay Panel Contest. Launched in 2002 by the non-profit Mafiq Foundation, the competition  is held at different Washington DC – Baltimore region masajid each year.

Participants ranging from Kindergarten through 12th grade are given an ayah from the Qur'an to reflect on, with the assignment of writing an essay, creating a poster or putting together a multimedia presentation of their choice. With so many contestants of various ages, EPC is a time for youth to interact with their peers socially and academically in an Islamic environment.

EPC’s goal is to be a platform that provides an opportunity for Muslim youth to gain valuable research, writing, presentation, and oratory skills.  As Sr. Amyasa Hasein, a parent of four competitors, said, “ Everything about EPC is good, it helps [my children] be more social, and it helps them with their Islam, as it encourages them to study for months on a topic and look up various ahadeeth and Quranic verses.”

This year’s topic- “building a community and prospering through unity”- encouraged students to delve deeper into the idea of brotherhood. Elementary students were asked to discuss why Muslims were considered to be a brotherhood. Middle schoolers examined how modern day Muslims could act as one Ummah under the sight of Allah, and high schoolers reflected on verse 103 of Surah Ali-Imran, which says:  “And hold fast to the rope of Allah and be not divided among yourselves ...(Surah 3:103)”. The high schoolers were told to discuss how Muslims today can create a stronger and more efficient Ummah.

The competition, which started at 10:00am, began with an opening speech delivered by the president of the Mafiq Foundation. After an overview of the day’s program, students were sent to different classrooms to begin their speeches. The younger children were quite excited as they spoke, full of pride, while their parents snapped pictures with their smartphones and cameras.

Middle and high schoolers anxiously paced as they waited for their turn to speak, each practicing silently and gathering their thoughts. After about two hours, everyone had given their speech and it was lunch time; participants, parents, judges and organizers gathered to discuss the day’s events over pizza and subs.

Taheeb Coker, a chairman of PGMA’s executive council remarked that “It [EPC] gets more and more interesting each year, as the participants increase... and I can see their excitement...EPC gives our children an opportunity to develop their skills for our community.”

After lunch, contestants were allowed to walk around and look at the different posters that were submitted on the theme of brotherhood. Faraz Ahsan, a past competitor in EPC who judged the posters this year, said that “the projects that I saw today were amazing. One person took the topic and created a recipe to show how we could strengthen our brotherhood with different ingredients. Just the fact that you have to synthesize all this information... and make it appealing to others, is an important skill that you can use for every aspect of your career and education.”

After the Dhuhr (early afternoon) prayer, the judges finished calculating contestant scores. The winning high school multimedia presentation was played for the audience, and showed the story of three students who worked together to create the well-known “Home of the Heart” campaign. While fictional, the film creatively show the brotherhood and patience needed for success in any project or undertaking. All contestants won something and 1st, 2nd and 3rd winners received extraordinary gifts- like tablets, e-readers and cameras.

By the end of the day everyone went home with a certificate and either a gift or a cash prize. Most competitors said they will return next year as the competition taught invaluable skills and was definitely rewarding. Samiha Ahmed, a 16 year old competitor, said “the experience was simply great.”

EPC 2012 Winners:
ESSAY Results:
Level 1   
First: Marwa Aligabi
Second: Aabidah Ahmed
Third: Khadijah Samiya
Special Speech: Syed A Ahmad
Special Essay: Yahia S Halawa

Level 2   
First: Ameen Ahmed
Second: Hadeel Abdalmageed
Third: Khadijah Arafat
Special Speech: Anjum Hajera
Special Essay: Noorah Ahmed

Level 3
1st Place- Adam Ahmad
2nd Place- Sayeemah Ahmed
3rd Place- Yumna Rahman
Special Speech- Yusra Rahman
Special Essay- Safiya Elmi

Level 4:
1st Place- Afaaf Ahmed
2nd Place- Emaan Zahir
3rd Place- Yomna Nassar
Special Speech- Huma Chowdhury
Special Essay- Mecca Mustafa

Level 5:
1st - Aziza Salako
2nd- Danya Chowdhury
3rd: Amirah Ahmad
Special Speech- Zahra Aligabi
Special Essay- Nishwath Samiya

Level 6:
1st - Sarah Arafat
2nd - Hamzah Karachiwalla
3rd- Samiha Ahmed
Special Speech- Noha Elansary
Special Essay- Adib Lasker


Middle School:
1st Place: Sayeemah Ahmed
2nd Place: Adham Abdulmageed
3rd Place: Arsalan Siddiqui
High School:
1st Place Shefa Ahsan
2nd Place Zahra Aligabi
3rd Place Nishwath Samiya

POSTER Results

Elementary School:
1. Hadeel Abdelmageed
2. Khadija Samiya
Middle School:
1. Arsalan Siddiqui
2. Nuha Mahboob
3. Sayeemah Ahmed
High School:
1. Shefa Ahsan
2. Yuser Tagouri
3. Nishwath Samiya