By Saim Raza and Ismail Ali
Hundreds of Michigan Muslims traveled to Lansing on May 13 for the annual Michigan Muslim Capitol Day. The event, hosted by the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC), focused on creating relationships between Muslims and their elected representatives and on getting young people involved in the political process.
The event started with an prayer invocation in the Michigan Senate by Imam Mustapha Elturk of the IONA mosque. After the invocation, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley started the senate session. Throughout the day, attendees observed legislative sessions, toured the government offices from the Supreme Court to the House floor, and met their representatives and senators in one-on-one meetings.
It was an enjoyable and productive day filled with many highlights for students attending the field trip. â€œListening to the Quran recitation in the Capitol Building was the highlight of our experience. We reflected on the religious freedom that we have in this beautiful country and the rights and responsibilities that come with it!â€ said Azra Ali, principal of Huda School. Rayhan Al-Alami, an Educator at Crescent Academy International, said she and her colleagues appreciated the consistency of the message participants received. â€œStudents were constantly being motivated and uplifted to become active in their community,â€ she remarked. Speakers told them that â€œtheir journey of activism starts now.â€ Imam Mik-ail Stewart, and educator at Al-Ikhlas Training Academy said, â€œMuslim Capitol Day allowed our students to see that Muslims are equally important to the success of Michigan, and our country, as anyone else.â€ Flintâ€™s Genesee Academy, Dearbornâ€™s Muslim American Youth Academy, and Greater Lansing Islamic School were also among the six participating schools.
For the first part of the day, distinguished community leaders, including 6th District Representative Rashida Tlaib and MMCC Board Member Ahmar Iqbal, addressed participants inside the State Capitolâ€™s rotunda and on the lawn. They expressed their appreciation of the communityâ€™s work and called for more civic engagement, especially from students. Carol Cain, an Emmy-award winning journalist, emceed the event. She stated, â€œI was honored to be asked to emcee Muslim Day at the Capitol. The enthusiasm of the young people at the standing room only event inside the rotunda of the state capital was matched by the inspirational stories and advice offered by leaders from the Muslim community and elected officials on hand.â€ First place achievement certifcates were presented to Huda School Students for participating in the first annual Michigan Muslim Interscholastic Pre-Capitol Day debates that had taken place a few weeks prior to Capitol Day and were presented to Nadia Khan, Mohammed Al-Hadidi, and Danya Obeid, by Senator Hoon-Yung-Hopgood.
|Michigan Muslim Capitol Day 2014 â€” with (l-r) Amina Iqbal, Dawood Zwink, Kassem Allie from the Islamic Center of America, and Dr. Muzammil Ahmed in Lansing, MI.|
During lunch, the attendees listened to speeches from Imam Abdullah El-Amin of Detroit, Representative George Durany, and a heart-moving recital of the Star Spangled Banner performed by Zena Alayan. In the afternoon, Najah Bazzy of Dearborn offered the invocation before House session. Also at this time, community members met their elected officials, discussing issue affecting the Muslim community and the broader Michigan community, from preventing brain drain among young Michiganders to promoting entrepreneurship in Detroit.
The event grew tremendously from last year, and community members are already looking forward to the next round. Dawood Zwink, MMCCâ€™s Executive Director, expressed plans to continue growing the program, citing plans to ensure more community members sit down in small meetings with their representatives and and a greater participation from schools.