Nov. 29, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Muslim Inaugural Fete Looks to a New Era

At the same time, it is important that young Muslims engage in government, becoming part of the conversation, which is becoming an increasing trend, according to Mattson.

The first priority of immigrant and first-generation Muslims is education and professional success, she said. But a “new stage” of maturity is beginning as second-generation Muslims develop a “desire to contribute, a commitment to this country, to do something good,” Mattson noted.

Such public service may also help break down misconceptions about Islam and its followers, and foster more dialogue between Muslims and other groups, especially among people involved in government and policy.

“There’s no better way to overcome stereotypes and prejudice than to be present,” she said.

And now, it seems they are doing just that.

Haris Tarin, director of community affairs for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said after organizing election forums at mosques throughout the country, he realized how many people really wanted to be involved with their local governments and become part of the political process.

“After 9/11, Muslims felt they were very under-represented,” he said. “On 9/11, a group of 19 foreigners defined them. They want to define themselves.”

Akhter also acknowledged a growing interest in politics and policy among young Muslims and said Obama’s election can serve as an example to them.

“If Barack Hussein Obama can get elected president, there’s no reason why a kid whose parents are immigrants can’t be elected to city council or the state legislature or even national office,” Akhter said. “Previously people in our community thought it was too hard, they couldn’t do it. Obama’s election showed you can do this, you have to go out there and go after it.”

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