The Muslim community has borne the brunt of the backlash from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But ten years later, they were the people with whom state and Howard County elected officials chose to commemorate the anniversary.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, the Howard County Muslim Council held a remembrance ceremony for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Dar-Al-Taqwa mosque on Route 108 in Ellicott City. The event was just one of several remembrance ceremonies held at mosques throughout the state.
"We're blessed to have a stronger and more engaged Muslim community with its epicenter right here in Howard County," Gov. Martin O'Malley said.
O'Malley attended the Howard County event along with roughly 20 other politicians, including Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, County Executive Ken Ulman, state senators and delegates, County Council members and Board of Education members.
"This demonstrates how much respect and trust we have earned," said Anwer Hasan, founder of the Howard County Muslim Council.
O'Malley told the Muslims at the event how they represent an "important part of the diverse family" that is Maryland. He said Muslims have been some of the greatest citizens battling extremism since 9/11.
A few other politicians spoke, sharing their 9/11 stories and thoughts on the anniversary. Brown. however, looked back to Sept. 12, 2001, when he was flying with the military to serve a 10-month tour in Iraq.
"For 10 months I learned a very important lesson from friends in the Muslim community … that there is so much more we share in common than there are differences that divide us," he said.
Mikulski also noted how after 9/11 she got to know the Muslim community better.
"I got to know your culture," she said. "I got to know your religion."
But many Americans still don't know much about Muslims, their culture or Islam, their religion.
During his speech at the ceremony, 13-year-old Razeen Khan said that a recent CNN poll showed that only 33 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Islam.
"Maybe some years from now, the next time these polls are taken, the results will be positive," he said.
Khan added that organizations like the Howard County Muslim Council "have played a large part in mending the cracks and creating one community."
Paul Monteiro, an associate director at the White House who serves as a liaison to Arab Americans, agreed.
"I wish that we could bottle up what you do in Howard County and give back to the rest of the country," he said.
Another speaker, Shahan Rizvi, said he understands that bigotry against Muslims since 9/11 is motivated by the pain people felt on that day. But Muslims, too, felt that pain, he said.
"Never forget Sept. 11," Rizvi said. "But do remember, no religion, especially Islam, would ever tolerate the killing of innocent people."