Learn the Process, Join ‘Muslim Day at the Capitol’

By Thasneem Ahmed and Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota

muslimday2_2.jpgMany, perhaps most, of us want to make our voices heard. We want to affect the political process, but may not know how or where to begin. Is it enough to phone in our opinions? To send an email? What is the best way to communicate with our legislators? Many Minnesotans, perhaps, could use a “beginner’s guide” to political advocacy.

The fourth annual Muslim Day at the Capitol, scheduled for Tuesday, March 18 at the Capitol Building in St. Paul, provides just such a guide.

Thasneem Ahmed was able to attend last year’s Day at the Capitol (pictured above), and says: “It was wonderful to hear our representatives speak to the Muslim community, and to realize that we are all working on the same side—the side of making Minnesota a better place for all of its citizens.”

Any Minnesotan—Muslim or non-Muslim, beginner or seasoned advocate—is welcome to show up at the Capitol on Tuesday at 9 a.m., to participate and to learn.

Thasneem’s View: Becoming a Bigger Part of Our Democracy

muslimday1.jpgLast year’s Muslim Day at the Capitol was a wonderful experience. The day began at about 9 a.m. and lasted well into the afternoon. I arrived at the Capitol Building close to 9:30 and was greeted by one of the organizers at the entrance. I had lived in Minnesota for more than seventeen years, but this was my first time actually inside the building. We were grouped by our districts and then given a schedule of appointments so we could visit our local representatives. I was assigned to the Woodbury group along with several others, including Br. Hesham Hussein, Br. Sameh, Br. Haythem, and his wife Iqbal. We were quite a diverse group of Muslims: Indian, Palestinian, Egyptian, and Sudanese. It was great!

Without Muslim Day at the Capitol, I probably would never have had the chance to meet so many of our representatives. It was really nice to be able to go together as a group and be able to meet so many of our legislators. Among those we met were Rep. Neva Walker of Minneapolis, Rep. Marsha Swails of Woodbury, Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul, and Sen. Charles Wiger of Maplewood. It was a wonderful experience to talk to them one on one, to be able to discuss our issues and concerns, and to form a working partnership with our elected legislators. Most of the issues we discussed were those that concern all Minnesotans: schools, early and special education, property taxes, health care, transportation, and road construction.

The morning flew by, and around noon we broke for lunch. Middle Eastern sandwiches and drinks were served, and everyone had a few moments to relax and eat while catching up on the morning events.

Later, in the main rotunda, an assembly was held and many of our state and local representatives addressed and welcomed us warmly. Some of them were Rep. Karen Clark of Minneapolis, Sen. Tarryl Clark of St. Cloud, and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. It was wonderful to hear them speak to the Muslim community and to realize that we are all working on the same side—the side of making Minnesota a better place for all of its citizens. After lunch and prayer, we resumed our groups and had a chance to meet more officials.

I left around 2:30, and, as I was driving home, I was truly impressed with the event’s organization and professionalism. Being able to walk around inside of our beautiful Capitol Building, meeting our representatives and legislators, and having the chance to visit with like-minded Muslims was really a wonderful experience. I have an even greater appreciation for our democracy now and it was wonderful to be able to feel like I was a part of it, at least for that short time. Insha Allah, I hope to be able to go again this year.

A Rundown of Tuesday’s Events

The day is set to begin at 9 a.m. with a training session in Room 118 of the Capitol Building. This training session includes a quick lesson on how to advocate with legislators. According to Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, the session will cover “the ins and outs of advocating at the Capitol.”

The day officially starts at 10 a.m. with a rally in the Capitol’s rotunda. This rally promises to feature speakers from the Minnesota Senate, the state House of Representatives, and from local Muslim organizations.

After that, individuals are invited to meet with their representatives.

The event—founded by Rep. Keith Ellison, Br. Hesham Hussein, and others—is co-sponsored by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota, the Muslim Youth of Minnesota, Al-Madinah Cultural Center, and the Muslim Students Association at the University of Minnesota.

If you’d like more information, or want to set up an appointment with your representative, you can email the staff at the Muslim American Society at info@masmn.org.

We also encourage you to post your thoughts, questions, or recollections about past Muslim Days at the Capitol below. Help others get involved by sharing your voice.

Learn more:

Thasneem Ahmed is a mother, business owner, and pre-law student who lives in Woodbury, Minn. Marcia Lynx Qualey is a mother, a writer, and is affiliated with the University of Minnesota in various ways.

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