Aug. 27, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Muslim Inaugural Fete Looks to a New Era

“I hope there would be this event regardless of who is president,” he said in an interview before the celebration. “The idea is that no matter who is in the White House, all communities need to be active and engaged in this government.”

Holding events such as this one and being involved politically “is just consistent with the American idea that we should have active citizenry,” Ellison said.

Guests mingled throughout the Thurgood Marshall Center, chatting over a buffet dinner that included chicken, rice and pasta, and listening to live music and poetry between guest speakers such as Imam Dawud Walid and Dr. Ingrid Mattson, the first female president of the Islamic Society of North America.

The party was hosted by the Muslim Social Network, the Washington Academic Leadership Institute and the Congressional Muslim Staff Association.

“People have a feeling that there’s something more to this presidency. People really want to believe in this president,” CMSA President Assad Akhter said. “It has a lot to do with who he is and the campaign he ran. He involved different groups, and they feel they had a part in this.”

Several attendants spoke about the increasing level of involvement of Muslims in public service.

“This is our country. We are very proud of this country,” said Sarwat Husain, who co-founded the American Muslim Democratic Caucus with Tariq Jaffery earlier this year. “Obama created more opportunities for us. He has Muslim heritage. Look how many people he has brought together in one person.”

Although much has been made of Obama’s election being a watershed moment for the black community, Muslims feel it is a great opportunity for them as well.

Despite the positive wishes expressed by most, some revelers did reflect on what they see as the failed policies of the Bush administration toward Muslims, particularly after 9/11.

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, head of the Muslim Democrats political action committee, said the Bush administration’s attitudes toward Muslims was “very harmful” and “very unproductive,” damaging relationships within the country and outside. Obama has a chance to reverse this, he said.

“Obama is coming with a strength,” he said. “People are taking him as an intelligent person who sees all sides of the issue before making a decision.”

But, he cautioned, “the Muslim world, they do not care for words. They hear words all the time. They will respect action.”

“The Muslim community in 2008 really came into its own,” says Khurrum Wahid, a criminal defense attorney and chairman of the Center for Voter Advocacy.

“This is an opportunity to tell folks that we can have a voice. This community has felt extremely marginalized in the last decade, and now we have a chance to harness that optimism.”

Mattson echoed Akhter, saying Obama’s election is an example to all who feel held back by racism and intolerance. “Prejudice can be overcome,” she said. “It’s a testament to the power of human beings to change.”

This message should be especially inspiring to Muslim Americans who feel marginalized because of their religion.

“We can take heart in this achievement,” Mattson said. “As difficult as it is for us now, it’s surely no more difficult than it has been for black people in America.”

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