Montgomery County’s leadership were in Germantown on Thursday to reaffirm the County’s solidarity with the Muslim Community.
County Executive Isiah Leggett County Council President Nancy Floreen, along with Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy, Police Commander David Gillespie of the 5th District in Germantown, as well as leaders of the County’s Faith Community Advisory Council gathered at the Islamic Society of Germantown on Blunt Road. These leaders gathered to officially sign the proclamation reaffirming the County’s solidarity with the Muslim Community, to further demonstrate the County Government’s firm belief that people of all religious faiths are valued and respected and will be safe; and that acts of hatred against Muslims will not be tolerated.
Imam Ammar Najar of the Islamic Society of Germantown, who hosted the event said, “It is a privilege to host this event here at the Islamic Society of Germantown. Our organization’s goal is to build bridges to the community. I want to thank all of you for coming today, and for choosing our center to host this event.”
Rev. Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman, Interfaith community liaison for the Montgomery County Office of Community Partnerships, and the Montgomery County Faith Community Advisory Council began giving some background on the reasons for the proclamation.
“Last fall, if you remember,” said Kasemen, “there was increased dangerous ranting. It was xenophobic and Islamophobia, and very divisive. So there was a conversation about the County Executive preparing a statement of solidarity with the Muslim community. But what we decided to do was to listen — off the record — to the Islamic community. And out of that listening, came a variety of initiatives which we are meeting about today.”
County Executive Ike Leggett spoke to roughly 25 community leaders, “Last December, I was particularly disturbed to hear from members of the Muslim community the number of people who talked about bullying, and acts of violence and hatred towards them and their families.”
“I want to make sure that you, the members of the Muslim community in Montgomery County, know that you are respected and valued. The Muslim community of Montgomery County is an integral part of County’s celebrated diversity. Muslim residents contributed to the welfare of our community in myriad ways. Muslim organizations invest thousands of volunteer hours serving on County commissions and committees, and in the non-profit community. Muslim business contributed greatly to the community, in a wide variety of enterprises including medical, professional trade, restaurants, store fronts, and startups that show tremendous creativity and innovation. These businesses fuel our County and provide jobs that help Montgomery County to remain business friendly,” said Leggett.
He went on, “The value of religious diversity of our County welcomes our Muslim residents and often demonstrates the essential cooperation that makes us a model throughout the County. As congregations of religion work in harmony to provide support, sponsor interfaith services which contribute to making this County more compassionate and just.”
“As a government,” said Leggett, “we working to ensure respectful and effective services toward the Muslim community, to include but not limited to law enforcement, legal, business, and of course education and other services as well. It is our firm commitment that you will be safe and acts of hatred against Muslims will not be tolerated in Montgomery County. Please note that we, Montgomery County affirm our solidary with the Muslim community of Montgomery County. Today we are reaffirming that basic principal.”
County Council President Nancy Floreen added, “What the Muslim community adds in terms of services and commitment is unparalleled. We know that and our community knows that. We are blessed to have you all here.”
“I know my colleagues join me in our commitment to our community to its diversity and inclusiveness,” said Floreen. “We will not tolerate the kind of xenophobia and misbehavior that we see at the national level that regrettably tends to filter down within the region. We are here with the Muslim community to reiterate these points. We shall share a future together that is great for everyone. This is what makes Montgomery County unique, if not in the nation than in the world. It is how we treat each other. This is why people want to be here.”
Leggett and Floreen were joined by other distinguished guests from Montgomery County Public Schools; the Department of Health and Human Services and Montgomery County Police Department. The event was also attended by Dr. Maria V. Navarro, MCPS chief academic officer; Dr. Kimberly A. Statham, MCPS deputy superintendent; Dr. Jonathan T. Brice, MCPS associate superintendent; Hardy Bennett, HHS senior manager for Behavioral Health and Crisis Services; and Captain Marc Yamada, MCPD director of Community Outreach Section were all on hand for the signing and to give reports on initiatives supporting the Muslim community.
Commander David Gillespie of the 5th District in Germantown spoke of the importance of the relationships between the police department and the community, in keeping all members of the Germantown community safe regardless of religious beliefs.
“As your District Commander here in Germantown, and I speak for all the District Commanders, the process of getting to know so many different people in our community is one that we cherish, but is also one that takes a lot of work. It takes a continuing effort to build and get to where we need to be,” said Gillespie.
“When things happen around the world that might put faith communities in danger, we will do outreach. We will have extra patrols. And, we will make sure we have a connection to find out about any concerns that you might have, and also to make sure that you are safe, and the congregation is safe,” he said. “Relationship building it crucial to our police department. We cannot be effective without these outstanding relationships. We want you to trust us. We want you to come to us, to report crimes to us because there are times when things might go unreported, and we can be much more effective if we know that certain things are happening, and they are brought to our attention.”
The Islamic Society of Germantown is a non-profit, independent organization that culminated from years of dedication from a group of fellow Muslims who started working on the idea in 1998.
Top: Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Council President Nancy Floreen sign a proclamation reaffirming the County’s solidarity with the Muslim Community.
Next: County Executive Ike Leggett speaks about the importance of the Islamic community to the County.
Next: Imam Ammar Najar of the Islamic Society of Germantown welcomes the leaders of Montgomery County.
Next: Commander David Gillespie, of the 5th District in Germantown speaks about the importance of the relationships between the faith communities and the police department.
Photos by Germantown Pulse