Some of the guests and volunteers at the Anne Arundel County Muslim Council bi-annual dinner. The event attracted many elected officials including Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman. Photo by the author.
On May 4, 2014, Anne Arundel County Muslim Council (AACMC) held its fourth bi-annual dinner at the Double Tree Hilton. Hundreds of Anne Arundel County Muslim residents attended the event along with county politicians, senators, delegates and law enforcement personnel.
About 450 people attended the event and made it a memorable night for the guests and community alike. School children educated and entertained the crowd through performances regarding Islam and Muslim customs. It was a night filled with many great personalities. A profound sense of friendship was evident amongst the guests and the community members reflected through vigorous handshakes and big smiles while greeting old friends and making new ones.
The event started with the recitation of the Quran, followed by nasheeds presented by the Makkah Learning Center’s kindergarten class, educating the guests about Islamic trivia such as Islamic calendar. Throughout the event, distinguished guests were acknowledged highlighting their brief biographies and achievements. A selected few guests were invited to address the audience.
AACMC’s President, Rudwan Abu-Rumman, welcomed everyone with a fiery speech. He mentioned how the Anne Arundel County administration and Vpoliticians are not complete without the Muslim community and vice versa. He expressed his gratitude toward his board of directors and the volunteers who worked hard to make the event a success. He was appreciative of the fact that the county government was working day and night to make it a better place for the Muslim community. At the same time, he was proud of his community for taking steps to work side by side for the betterment of the County.
Among the guests who attended the event and took the stage were, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, Delegate Don H. Dwyer Jr (District 31), Delegate Cathy M. Vitale (District 33A), Delegate Theodore J. Sophocleus (District 32), Delegate Ron George (District 30) and a candidate for Governor, Delegate Steve Schuh (District 31), and Senator James E. DeGrane (District 32).
Senator James E. DeGrange thanked the youth of the community, echoing Delegate Ted Sophocleus’ words, “I’ve always been welcomed by everyone and it is really a pleasure. Like Ted Sophocleus said about the children here. It’s incredible, the[ir] intelligence, how respectful they are and how well behaved they always are. The families here have raised their children to be such fine citizens that I know [they will be] fine adults.“
Guests thanked the community, acknowledged the good work done by the AACMC, and renewed their commitment of working together with the Council and the Muslim community for the benefit of the County as a whole. They reflected on how this dinner was a great way to connect and network with everyone within the Muslim community.
Those who were recognized within in the audience included Senator Jim C. Rosapepe (District 21), Delegate Barbara A. Frush (District 21), Councilman Dick Ladd (district 5), Judge Ron Silkworth, Judge Alison Asti, SAC Stephen Vogt (FBI Senior Agent in charge), Chief Kevin Davis (Chief of police AAC), Fire Chief Michael E. Cox (AAC Fire Department), Assistant Fire Chief George Morgan, Col. Edward C. Rothstein (Chief Executive Officer of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation), Col. George Johnson (DNR Superintendent), Deputy Fire Chief Kevin J. Simmons, Anne C. Leitess (State Attorney for AAC), Col. Brian Foley (U.S. Commander at Fort Meade), Teresa Milio Birge (President at AAC Board of Education), Heather Campbell (field representative for U.S. Senator Ben Cardin), Amy Leahy, Calvin Hawkins, Ray Stripe, and Anne Rutherford.
The chief keynote speaker of the night was the Anne Arundel County Executive, Laura Neuman. She took the stage by thanking the community, sharing how well the County is doing since her taking the office in the past year. “We are here to serve the entire community. We all come together as one Anne Arundel County (AAC),”she said.
She informed the audience about how she wants to build a better community by bridging the connection between the county government and Muslim community and the first step is through transparency, “I want you to know that everything that we do should be completely transparent and open. I want you to feel that you are connected to the work that we do every day.”
Neuman went on to explain how she wants to help the local businesses and entrepreneurs by creating and offering jobs, a common issue among the audience, she learned. She talked about how the County had the lowest tax rate in the state of Maryland and a property tax cut for the first time in 5 years due to the positive developments within the county, an achievement of her government. She also gave the announced that no increase in water bills in the coming year. Additionally, Neuman informed the audience of a six (6) percent increase in the county population and highlighted her government’s plan to use the tax funds toward public safety by adding more law enforcement officials.
Ninety-nine percent of businesses in AA county qualify as small business. Since small business owners are the ones to create jobs and Neuman believes that economic development is all about serving the community, so she urged the community to come forward and serve the county by taking part in the commissions created for such purposes. “We want to make those resources are available to you…I can’t help you unless you guys get involved…I want you to be successful,” she added.
Many youth and others volunteered to join commissions. She was very happy to learn that many people, young and old, stepped forward.
She ended her speech by acknowledging the need of volunteerism asking everyone to come forward with issues and problems that concern the community, “If there is something that you want to see from your county government that you are not seeing, I want you to let me know about it personally. I read every email. If you sent me an email it comes directly to me…if you have a problem in your community I want to know about it. We will make sure that we are here to serve because the role of county government every day is to serve the citizens of this county.”
After the speech, Neuman presented the following people with the Anne Arundel County citations: for the community service-Muhammad Babar, Rashid Iqbal, Chad Jones, Ibrahim Hamideh, Liaqat Masood, Farooq Tahir, Mustafa Hasan Abboushi, Ibrahim Sheikh, and Martha Scott; for educating the youth: Maher Kharma and Noreen Zar; for diligent work to educate the community and leading the youth: Imam Mikaeel Smith; and for educating the Anne Arundel County Police recruits and Annapolis Fire department officers: Muhammad Jameel and Maqbool Patel.
Abu-Rumman presented young community leaders with AACMC citations for their excellent work within the community: Mohammad Cheema, Ali Murtaza, Usman Chaudhry, Aqueel Iqbal, Atta Ul Haqq, Saeed Iqbal, Luwaila Babikar, Zahida Ferdaus, Sofia Iqbal, Rabia Cheema, Mahlaqa Cheema, Anaum Cheema, Reenah Sheikh and Faris Aziz.
As the night progressed, many in the audience mingled and networked with the guests during the dinner. “I think the dinner is a great platform to celebrate our achievements with those who helped us achieve them,” AACMC director Saiqa Atta said, “it felt like a graduation ceremony. Everyone felt proud and seemed happy to be there!”
Other members of the community appreciated the efforts of the community involvement, especially the youth. One such spectator was Mr. Zia Malik, who not only appreciated the efforts of the council but also the volunteers and the coming youth of AACMC, “I would especially like to thank all the volunteers who gave their time to help the community. This is the spirit we need, to give our next generations a platform to keep united and help each other. The youth is our future and getting them involved in political, social and education activities is the key to success for Muslim community.”
If the community leaders were happy, the youth were not far behind. “This event helped our community in realizing that our leaders want to listen to us,” Anaum Cheema, the Master of Ceremonies for the night.
“Alhumdulilah, the event was a great success. It was organized and planned to the utmost professional level. I really enjoyed the night, especially how the young speakers took the stage and did an excellent job at introducing the guests,” Sofia Iqbal, another young member of the community showed appreciation of the event.
As the night ended on a happy note, many felt content with the mutual cooperation between community and government as they headed home, cherishing new friendships.
The AACMC board of directors includes: Rudwan Abu-Rumman (President), Chad Jones (Secretary), Riaz Ahmad (Vice President), Sajid Chaudhry (Director), Nasir Cheema (Director), Dr. Mohammed Dughly (Director), Dr. Alif Manejwala (Director), Nour Eildeen (Director), Jahangir Mirza (Director), Liaqat Masood (Director), Saiqa Atta (Director), Zulfi Baig (Director) and Shah Nawaz Ansari (Director).