Sometimes, politics is so entwined with community-based good works and elected officials’ public service that it can be hard to separate them.

The eighth annual Howard County Muslim Council food drive and picnic last week is a good example. The event, conceived after the Sept. 11 attacks to help combat stereotypes, combined the local Muslim community’s desire to help the poor and be a vital part of the county’s public life with the Community Action Council’s need for help with its food bank.

The annual event attracts many public officials, who go to offer support and, by their presence, perhaps attract some, too. The next election is just a year away, and most candidates are busily raising money.

County Executive Ken Ulman, Rep. John Sarbanes and all four Democratic County Council members stopped by. They were joined by Democratic state Sen. James N. Robey, who as county executive worked to reach out to area Muslims after 9/11; Democratic Del. Guy Guzzone; and county police, fire and school officials, including Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, school board Chairman Frank Aquino and three other elected board members. Two candidates for the House of Delegates, Democrats Jon Weinstein and Maryann Maher, attended.

The county’s Muslim community, led by its council’s president, Dr. Rashid A. Chotani, collected about 10,000 pounds of nonperishable food for the struggling Howard County Food Bank through personal donations and from gifts solicited at area food stores over the previous week. Sunday’s rain and cold pushed the group’s annual picnic and celebration across Route 108 from Cedar Lane Park to the Dar-al-Taqwa Mosque, whose leaders donated use of their building.

“You see Muslims, Christians and Jews,” Chotani said, looking around as children scurried about clutching pink cotton candy and popcorn, while adults sat at tables eating grilled chicken and hamburgers and chatting. “I just want this to grow and bring all Muslims together” with the rest of the county, Chotani said. (More)


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