Community leaders praise outgoing Maryland Governor at Iftar reception

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Governor Hogan addressing guests at the Iftar reception in Government House on April 21, 2022 in Maryland. PHOTO: T.Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Annapolis, Maryland: Around 125 invited guests from different faiths participated in an Iftar reception hosted by the Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan, and First Lady, Yumi Hogan, at Government House, the Governor’s official residence, on Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Annapolis, Maryland.

This was Gov. Hogan’s final Iftar at Government House as he will be stepping down in January 2023 after serving two terms as the Governor of Maryland. Diplomats and several Indian-American and South Asian American community leaders who were present at the reception, praised Hogan for economic growth, unwavering support to minorities, and promoting diversity during his eight years of service as the Governor of the State.

The reception returned after a two-year hiatus with the easing of COVID restrictions.

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“Assalamu Alaikum, peace be upon you. It really is great to have you joining us once again,” said Hogan welcoming the crowd, adding, “One of Maryland’s greatest strengths is the diversity of our people. And we’re very proud that 350,000 Muslims from 60 different countries call Maryland home. In our administration, as has been mentioned a couple of times, so, it’s been really committed to increasing engagement with our thriving Muslim community and bringing people of different faiths together.”

As an example, he cited the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program which has helped many deserving students to attend Muslim schools in Maryland. On hate crimes legislation in the State, he said, “We pushed for and enacted legislation to increase penalties on individuals who threatened hate crimes or acts of violence in order to protect some of our vulnerable communities in our schools.”

Hogan, the First Lady, the Lieutenant Governor visited mosques across Maryland and participated in the celebration of many Muslim holidays, the Governor recalled. “And both the Quran and the Bible, call on us to find ways to use our lives to spread love to seek justice, and to show mercy. Our faiths may be different, but I believe very strongly, that if our hearts are open, and our intentions are good, there will always be much more that unites us than divides us.”

He thanked everyone for the support and friendship provided to him during the past eight years “through some difficult times” and promised to keep working to “change Maryland for the better” during the remaining months of his administration.

The Vice-Chair of the Governor’s Commission on South Asian American Affairs, Sajid Tarar, while offering Ramadan wishes to everyone, said he had a wonderful experience in his role serving the Governor for eight years. He went on to say, “Ramadan is not only fasting, but it brings us close to God and Quran which is a code of life. It teaches us how to life together, how to appreciate food, how to appreciate water, which we take it for granted every day.”

From left, Jesse Singh, Governor Larry Hogan, and Dr. Arun Bhandari at the Iftar reception in Government House on April 21, 2022 in Maryland. PHOTO: Executive Office of the Governor

Prominent Indian Americans also present at the event were Jesse Singh of the Center for Social Change, and Dr. Arun Bhandari, a practicing oncologist and hematologist who was appointed by Hogan to the Maryland Health Care Commission in 2020, Maryland State Council on Cancer Control in 2018, and The Maryland Board of Physicians in 2016.

Praising Hogan as a “People’s Governor,” for spreading diversity in Maryland, Dr. Bhandari told News India Times, “Governor Hogan is very popular particularly in the Indian-American community. He has even celebrated Diwali at Government House before the pandemic, and has a special place in his heart for our community. He has been able to bring together Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Jews during this event at a time when the world is divided. He is very much in favor of diversity and his own family is a living example of diversity with people of different ethnicities. He has visited The Hindu Temple of Metropolitan Washington, and Washington Kali Temple. His former chief of staff, Sam Malhotra, is an Indian-American, and the Governor in his latest book ‘Still Standing,’ has even mentioned about both of us.”

Singh told News India Times, “Governor Hogan in true spirit of diversity and inclusiveness has always opened his house to celebrate Ramadan and Diwali. The Governor promised to celebrate Diwali as well before his term ends in January 2023.”

Rizwan Siddiqi, chairman of the United Maryland Muslim Council, said the Governor is leaving $8 billion surplus to the budget of Maryland, and that the entire community is supportive of his development and diversity initiatives.

Imam Mohamed Abdullahi of the Muslim Community Center, said, Ramadan is all about self-evaluation and self-discipline. He said, “Ramadan teaches us kindness and generosity to reach out to our neighbors and those who are less fortunate.”

Also present was the Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States Masood Khan, who said, “You have touched the hearts and minds of the people but you have also been investing your time and energy in developing the economy of Maryland, which has become an economic hub over the years and it is one of the best performing economies in the whole of the United States. For instance, you’ve been fighting against discrimination and you’ve been trying to integrate followers of different faiths. And we appreciate that you’ve been trying to promote and protect human rights. So thank you so much on behalf of all the communities here, and you have tried to merge these communities in one big family.”

Khan said that Ramadan teaches everyone empathy and solidarity with the indigent and the marginalized segments of society, ideas that are universal to all religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhs, all of which also have the ritual of fasting.

Deputy Chief of Mission of the Turkish Embassy to the US, Sinan Ertay also spoke at the event.

Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, Steve McAdams introduced the speakers and thanked the Governor’s cabinet members, Maryland Secretary of State, John Wobensmith, Director of Governor’s Office of Faith Based Outreach, Jennifer Gray, Secretary of Juvenile Service, Sam Abed, the highest ranking Muslim in Hogan’s Cabinet, Director of Governor’s Commission on South Asian American Affairs, Christina Poy, Chief of Staff, Winston Wilkerson, Director of Hispanic Commission, Lorena Rivera, and Executive Assistant, Kathy Steele for their presence and helping with the event.

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