Young muslim woman doing selfie with catholic friend. (Stock photo)
ROSEDALE, Md. (Feb. 2, 2016)—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday joined members of the Maryland Muslim community at Masjid Bait-us-Samad mosque for a conversation about strategies for overcoming challenges to building cultural awareness and community unity.
"Our communities thrive when residents have respect and empathy for everyone around them, and those qualities are built through ongoing conversations," said Senator Cardin. "Lately, there has been far too much inflammatory and inappropriate rhetoric about our Muslim neighbors emanating from the presidential campaign trail, which is why I feel that now is an important time to join together with leaders from across Maryland's Muslim community to discuss shared concerns."
"It is energizing to sit down with our political leaders to discuss the important issues surrounding the religion of Islam," said Sean Stinnett, President of the Maryland Muslim Council. "It is the hopes of the Maryland Muslim Council that we will continue these type of dialogues, while educating non-Muslims on the contributions the Muslim community have made towards our society."
In the wide-ranging forum with Muslim leaders from throughout the state, Senator Cardin discussed numerous domestic and international issues, ranging from ways to reduce radicalization and hate in the U.S. to the promotion of stability abroad, specifically in the Middle East. Several participants and Senator Cardin spoke passionately about the need to combat the Islamic State and to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria, while alleviating the ongoing refugee crisis. Noting that he supported President Obama's overall strategy in Syria and that he believed the solution to the country's current conflict was not completely military in nature, Senator Cardin called for expedient regime change and an inclusive process that involves all stakeholders to determine the country's future direction. Senator Cardin advocated a similar approach to promoting U.S. national security in the future.
"To me, ensuring our national security starts with protecting core American values of democracy, inclusion and tolerance," said Senator Cardin. "It is critical that we never stop working to create a society in which all minorities are ensured full participation in every facet of life—politically, economically, educationally, culturally and beyond. It is absolutely essential for us to have a functional government and society that everyone from all walks of life is as involved and represented as they would like to be."
Senator Cardin underscored this point by discussing the need to immediately end the use of discriminatory profiling in the law enforcement process. "Profiling is ridiculously costly, completely unnecessary and patently un-American," said Senator Cardin. "As I have done in the past Congresses through the End Racial Profiling Act and BALTIMORE Act, I will continue to work to advance a legislative solution that forever outlaws the use of discriminatory profiling by law enforcement."
"The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is thankful for Senator Ben Cardin's courage to stand up with the American Muslims during these troubling times. We believe we have found a partner with whom we can work to make our country safer," said Dr. Faheem Younus, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Several participants asked Senator Cardin to offer his thoughts on ways to overcome stereotypes and fear of Muslims in America. " Muslim Americans contribute a great deal to the strength and well-being of communities across this country. It's vitally important that we do a better job of showcasing the wealth of positive stories of individual Muslims in our communities," said Senator Cardin. "We need to see more stories about the Muslims who do things like serve in our military, notch significant medical advances and teach our children. They are out there and they are making this country a better place every single day. We need to ensure that the true contributions of America's Muslim community are fully understood by as large a number of people as is possible."