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Maryland’s first Muslim lawmaker takes office

Posted Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 8:32 am

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s first Muslim lawmaker took office Wednesday, saying he was proud to make history but not interested in being known only for his religion.

Nevertheless, the milestone was sweet for Democrat Saqib Ali of Gaithersburg, who was targeted by an anti-Muslim protester during his campaign. In August, a protester stood outside his house with an “Islam sucks” poster and a T-shirt that said, “This mind is an Allah-free zone.”

The opinion wasn’t widespread, though, and Ali defeated incumbent Delegate Joan Stern for the Montgomery County seat in the Democratic primary.

As Ali sat awaiting his first day in office Wednesday, holding his snoozing 8-month-old daughter outside the House chamber, he said the anti-Muslim protester was an exception to his experience on the campaign.

“Occasionally people would ask if I was Muslim, but most of the time it was a curiosity, not an obstacle,” said Ali, a software engineer who had never held elected office before.

About the protester, who was warned by police and didn’t return, Ali said, “It was disappointing that that kind of bigotry would still rear its head, but I understand it was an isolated incident.”

There was no religious controversy as Ali took the oath of office with his colleagues. Maryland lawmakers do not hold their hands on a religious text while taking office. Earlier this month, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison became the first Muslim in Congress, and swore his oath on a Quran that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson.

Ali said he did not want to be known solely as a Muslim lawmaker. He said he’d like to work on transportation matters and to pass a bill making it tougher for companies to track information and buying habits of private citizens. He said he wanted his constituents to know he’s just like them.

“I will represent the Muslims, but more importantly, I will represent all the people,” he said. “I’m a Muslim, but I’m also a resident.”

Other lawmakers cheered the historical first. The Maryland House has had a Hindu member since 1990 — Democrat Kumar Barve, also of Montgomery County.

“I think it’s great,” said Delegate Anne Healey, D-Prince George’s. “Maryland has had a history of religious tolerance going back to the founding of the colony.”

On the Web:
Saqib Ali’s site: http://www.saqibali.org
Maryland legislature: http://mlis.state.md.us

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Posted by: m- Sat Jan 13, 2007 2:41 pm
Not so way out there johndoe. I wonder if Ellison really believes EVERYTHING in the Koran and will govern as the Islamic tenets dictate?
Posted by: johndoe- Sat Jan 13, 2007 12:00 pm
I'll give you several reasons.

As opposed to the irreligious or anti-theist, where the idea of religion is only a set of personally held ideas used as a crutch to satisfy weaker minds, Islamists would disagree with you and violently so. The ignorance of the West and its love affair with religious pluralism under the guise of multiculturalism will finally be its undoing. As Islam's Trojan horse has now been given its first ticker tape parade.

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Remember the pacivity that paved the way for nazism? They're coming to America next....
Posted by: Wheelie- Thu Jan 11, 2007 12:06 pm
You gotta be f**king kidding me?
They're now elected officials????
I AM depressed!
Posted by: raystar_444- Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:58 am
Sorry News Journal this piece of bait is not working.......The only thing that gets this gang riled up is a white, black or illegal mexican criminal.
Posted by: liveandlearn- Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:19 am
Why would anyone care what religon the person is. Why are theying making a big deal out of being Muslim. So what if he was a Witness or a Catholic. Who cares what religon you are.
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