CAIRO — In a bid to counter growing hostile sentiments in the United States, thousands of Muslims are expected to attend the annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) which opens on Saturday, May 26, to promote religious tolerance and fight "Islamophobia."
"We want to touch upon the rise of Islamophobia and the history of dealing with these kinds of phobias, issues of racism and of not welcoming a community," Naeem Baig, vice president of public affairs for ICNA, told The Hartford Courant.
"The beauty is that America has always dealt with these issues successfully and moved on. But right now it's an issue and we want to address it."
More than 15,000 Muslims from across the United States are expected to attend the conference, which runs from Saturday May 26 – 28, 2012.
This year's theme of the three-day convention, which opens today, is “Defending Religious Freedom, Understanding Shariah" as part of ICNA national tour.
Connecticut's capital is hosting the annual convention for the seventh consecutive year. The conference is open to Muslims and non-Muslims, Baig said.
The convention speakers include Nouman Ali Khan, founder and CEO of the Bayyinah Institute; Imam Mohamed Magid, executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.
Imam Abdullah Daniel Hernandez, the co-founder and director of the "Al Hidayah" Islamic School of Guidance in Beaumont, Texas will also attend the convention along with Omar T. Mohammedi, a lawyer specializing in employment discrimination and corporate and real estate transactions.
ICNA is one of the largest, non-profit, grassroots Muslim organizations in North America with many projects, programs, and activities designed to help in reforming society at large.
In Islam, Shari`ah governs all issues in Muslims’ lives from daily prayers to fasting and from, marriage and inheritance to financial disputes.
The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.
Promoting religious tolerance, scholars at the convention will speak about issues facing Muslim Americans at lectures, workshops and interfaith dialogue.
"The First Amendment guarantees religious freedom for every citizen," Zahid H. Bukhari, president of ICNA, said in a prepared statement.
"Muslim Americans are asking for the same fundamental rights to observe Shari`ah, a component of the Islamic faith, in our personal, familial and religious affairs within the boundaries of the United States Constitution and all local, state and federal laws."
A cultural bazaar and Islamic entertainment will also be offered.
US Muslims, estimated at between six to eight million, have been sensing a growing hostility following a hearing presented by Republican representative Peter King on what he described as “radicalization” of US Muslims.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.
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