BBC, Aug. 30, 2002
American Muslims are gathering in Washington or what is expected to be the largest meeting of its kind in the United States since 11 September last year.
The annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, starting Friday, will focus on the issues facing Muslims today.
The impact of 2001 terror attacks – which are believed to have been carried out by Muslim extremists – on civil liberties, Islam and political life in the United States will feature high on the agenda.
The society’s secretary general, Sayyid Syeed, said that as American Muslims, their destiny was linked to the rest of the American citizens.
“We want this country to have peace,” he said.
“Our job here is to discuss how we can achieve that kind of positive role in mainstream America.”
Estimates suggest there are between two million and six million Muslims in the United States.
Over the past year many have endured some of their most difficult moments.
There have been government raids on their charities and mosques, as federal agents work to uncover any links to terrorism.
Despite efforts to prevent the demonisation of their religion, the attacks inevitably changed some perceptions.
For a period many Muslims felt personally threatened and even now many find they have to defend accusations against Islam.
But Muslims also have been encouraged by the many Americans who have visited mosques and made other gestures of support.
The convention, which is being held in the US capital for the first time, will also aim to encourage Muslims to reach out to other faiths and explore common ground.
It was due to start on Friday at the Washington Convention Center with a prayer for the victims of 11 September, with Christian and Jewish religious leaders invited to participate.
The four-day convention will also offer other advice on a range of social and economic issues affecting Muslims in America such as health care, parenting, charter schools and investing.
The National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, a coalition of groups including the National Lawyers Guild and the American Muslim Council, is planning a rally at Freedom Plaza on Sunday.
It will end with a discussion of political strategy for Muslims in forthcoming elections.
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