Arundel Muslims mourn for France, condemn attacks

Student at Muslim rally for Paris victims: "We gathered for one cause, which is standing for humanity."

The French tricolor flapped in the wind Sunday afternoon as about 100 Muslims stood silently at a vigil in Annapolis to mourn those killed in the Paris attacks this month and to condemn those who carried them out.

The group laid flowers at the steps of the Maryland World War II Memorial in Annapolis and held candles that struggled to stay lit.

The vigil also provided an opportunity for the participants to distance themselves from the Islamic State terrorists amid a new wave of anti-Muslim sentiment.

"We want the whole world to know, as Muslims, we do not condone the violence," said Rudwan Abu-rumman, 68, the president of the Anne Arundel County Muslim Council. "They are criminals using our faith."

"They do not really know the true spirit of Islam," said Nasir Cheema, 52. "They follow people who misguide them."

Cheema, of Crownsville, said he expects to face additional security checks at the airport and a general wave of anti-Muslim sentiment after the attacks.

"But I'm worried about the politicians," he said. "I thought we had really educated people running for president. I was really surprised to hear it from Dr. [Ben] Carson and [Donald] Trump."

Trump said he would support a countrywide database to allow the government to track Muslims in the U.S., and Carson has said that he would not want a Muslim to be president unless he or she rejected certain tenets of Islam. Amid an outcry from both parties, Trump later walked back the call for a mandatory Muslim registry.

Cheema's 17-year-old son, Asad, said it's important for American Muslims to publicly denounce the violence that killed 130 people on Nov. 13.

"When something like this happens, it's good to stand and pray for them," he said. "It's important for younger people to get involved. From 18 to 25, there's a lot of indifference, whether it be government or civic engagement. It's something we should change."

The Indian Creek School senior said he thought the vigil — a "silent, serene gathering" — struck an appropriate tone.

"No big ceremony," he said, "just a chance to get together."

Uzma Qureshi, 53, of Crofton, said she hopes American Muslims, and children in particular, don't face racism over terrorism that has nothing to do with them.

"We're here for our children," she said, "to teach them how to use civic engagement to deal with challenges from all sides. We want them to be proud of who they are, stand up and speak up."

Anne Arundel County is home to about 15,000 Muslims. Abu-rumman described them as law-abiding and productive members of society.

"American Muslims are good citizens who work very hard to put food on the table and educate our children," he said. "We want a safe America more than anyone."

Abu-rumman added that he was surprised to hear Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, whom he supported in the 2014 election, had joined other governors in opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states.

"I was surprised, as a Republican, to hear it from his mouth," he said. "We worked really hard to get him in his seat. We are conservative Muslims."

He hopes Hogan will retract his request to President Obama.

"This is a country built on the shoulders of immigrants," Abu-rumman said.

Abu-rumman said Trump's call Saturday for video surveillance of some American mosques was "comical."

"We need protection for our mosques," he said. He joked that that he'd like the government also to fund surveillance for Muslim businesses.

"Hopefully, he doesn't need to raise taxes," Abu-rumman said.

Anaum Cheema, an 18-year-old student at American University in Washington (and no relation to Nasis or Asad), said she attended the vigil to show her support for France and those affected by tragedy worldwide.

"We gathered for one cause," she said, "which is standing for humanity."

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