Maryland’s First Muslim Lawmaker Takes Office

January 11, 2007

Author: Kristen Wyatt

Source: Delaware Online

Wire Service: AP

ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland’s first Muslim lawmaker took office Wednesday, saying he was proud to make history but not interested in being known only for his religion.

Nevertheless, the milestone was sweet for Democrat Saqib Ali of Gaithersburg, who was targeted by an anti-Muslim protester during his campaign. In August, a protester stood outside his house with an “Islam sucks” poster and a T-shirt that said, “This mind is an Allah-free zone.”

The opinion wasn’t widespread, though, and Ali defeated incumbent Delegate Joan Stern for the Montgomery County seat in the Democratic primary.

As Ali sat awaiting his first day in office Wednesday, holding his snoozing 8-month-old daughter outside the House chamber, he said the anti-Muslim protester was an exception to his experience on the campaign.

“Occasionally people would ask if I was Muslim, but most of the time it was a curiosity, not an obstacle,” said Ali, a software engineer who had never held elected office before.

About the protester, who was warned by police and didn’t return, Ali said, “It was disappointing that that kind of bigotry would still rear its head, but I understand it was an isolated incident.”