FBI Bid To Win Over American Muslims

The FBI will hold its first nationally televised “town hall meeting” for Muslims and Arab-Americans on Thursday in an effort to improve relations and enlist their help in fighting terrorism, an FBI official said. Paul Moskal, chief division counsel for the FBI in Buffalo, New York, who will lead the meeting and field questions, said the agency and the Arab and Muslim American communities needed to overcome misconceptions about each other and foster closer cooperation. “What we want to do is let the public know that the FBI has changed its mission after September 11, that our number one priority is the detection and prevention of another terrorist act. If someone in the public can help us accomplish that, that’s our purpose,” Moskal told Reuters on Wednesday. The meeting will be broadcast on Bridges TV, an independent, commercial US television network broadcasting lifestyle and culture programmes around the clock for a primarily Muslim American audience. FBI says its priority is to detect and prevent another terror attack The televised meeting is also part of efforts to encourage Muslim and Arab Americans to report instances of post-September 11 backlash, intimidation, racism or harassment so the agency can enforce their civil rights, Moskal said. A third reason for the town hall meeting was that “we need more Arab Americans, we need more Muslim Americans as FBI agents and as FBI employees. So we use it to recruit as well,” he said. Muslim American groups have long accused the Bush administration of neglect in the fight against terrorism, which they say undermines a potentially priceless resource that could be used to root out militants at home. Muslim groups say the government must visibly engage their community to undermine militants’ charges that Muslims are left out of American society, and to ensure that Muslims do not feel alienated and become targets for radical recruiters. Estimates of the number of Muslim Americans vary between three million and seven million. “It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, for the FBI to understand the Muslim community better and for American Muslims to better understand law enforcement agencies” Moskal said the FBI had been conducting local town hall meetings, at which agents would make contact with citizens and answer questions about their work, in a broad range of ethnic, religious and other communities throughout the United States. But he said Thursday’s session was the first nationally televised event targeting Muslim and Arab Americans. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations which is moderating the television programme, said, “It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, for the FBI to understand the Muslim community better and for American Muslims to better understand law enforcement agencies.” US officials acknowledge that they must do more to involve Muslim Americans in counter-terrorism efforts. But they say the administration is already actively cooperating with Muslim groups and say they enjoy greater access to the government than ever before.

Tension Grows Over Mosque In Boston

BOSTON – It was to be the biggest mosque in the northeastern United States, a center of worship for Boston’s 70,000 Muslims and a milestone for America’s Muslim community.?Instead, construction of the $24.5 million center has been stalled by lawsuits and a deepening row between Jewish and Muslim leaders that reflects broader suspicions facing American Muslims after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Jewish leaders charge that former and current officials in the Islamic Society of Boston, which is building the 70,000-square-foot mosque, are linked to terrorist groups and have failed to distance themselves from radical Islam and anti-Jewish statements. The Islamic Society denies any connection to terrorism and considers itself victimized by a campaign to taint the mosque with accusations of ties to radical teachings. The society says it has repeatedly distanced itself from anti-Jewish statements by some of its leaders. Among Jewish concerns is whether a former Islamic Society trustee – outspoken Egyptian Sunni cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi – praised Hamas and Hezbollah, which the U.S. State Department regards as terrorist organizations. “There is a great deal of anxiety,” said Larry Lowenthal, executive director of the American Jewish Committee’s chapter in Boston, whose Jewish population of 240,000 is the fifth- largest of U.S. cities. American Muslims are watching the case closely. “Unfortunately, I see the Boston case as indicative of a growing trend in anti-Muslim rhetoric that has grown after 9/11,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest American Muslim civil rights group.

American Muslims May Exceed U.S. Pledge For Pakistan

News Report, Jehangir Khattak NEW YORK – The American Muslim community is expected to raise more funds for the victims of earthquake that struck Pakistan, Kashmir and Afghanistan on Oct. 8, than the $50 million dollars in aid pledged so far by the United States government. More than a dozen national Muslim organizations and groups have already raised $20 million in relief aid for the earthquake victims in Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. During interviews with the Muslims Weekly, managers of these Islamic and Pakistani relief groups and community organizations sounded upbeat while claiming an overwhelming response to the huge disaster of unimaginable proportions in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir that has killed 54,197 people as of Oct. 26. As the donations of money, food, medical supplies and other needed goods continue to be made by individuals and mosques around the country, the long-term contribution from this minority group is expected to climb beyond the initial $50 million aid package offered by the U.S. government. Some Muslims are fearful of donating money to Islamic organizations which the U.S. government could investigate for terrorist connections so have contributed large sums to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mercy international and many American and United Kingdom groups. If those sums are included in the total donations, then the Muslims community’s pledges might already exceed the government’s aid package. After 9/11 American Muslims and Muslim charity organizations in the U.S. came under extreme government scrutiny and a number of leading charity organizations were closed. Such actions spurred fear among American Muslims that the government may charge unknowing donors for “funding terrorism,” according to the Council on American Islamic Relations in a research titled, “American Muslims: One Year after 9-11.” Some non-Muslim aid organizations have complained in recent days that donations for the earthquake disaster have been lower than expected, blaming the low charity in the U.S. on “donor fatigue” following relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami last year. But reports from Muslim organizations do not express concern. “We have received a very positive and encouraging response from the Pakistani community and the larger Muslim and non-Muslim community,” Salar Rizivi of the Islamic Relief, which has pledged $10 million dollars aid for the quake victims, told Muslims Weekly over telephone from Burbank, California. He said the Islamic Relief had so far allocated a total of $4 million for the relief effort. “We are receiving constant feedback from our field offices in Pakistan and are sending the relief items accordingly,” Rizvi said. Islamic Relief sent a plain load of tents, blankets, hygiene and first aid kits to Pakistan from Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 17. It intends to send more relief goods in the coming days. Last year Islamic Relief-USA raised around $14 million from predominantly Muslim donors for projects in South America, Iraq, Palestinian refugee camps, Egypt, Chechnya, Pakistan and China, etc. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief that had initially pledged a million dollar relief effort has now revised its pledge. “ICNA Relief is planning to raise $10 million for short and long-term Adopt the Village Rehabilitation Works,” the organization said in a statement. ICNA Relief is sending medicines worth $1.2 million (one of the most expensive consignments to leave for Relief from USA) to the region. “Besides this consignment, we have so far dispatched medicines worth $200,000 to the disaster hit regions in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir,” said Irfan Khursheed, Director ICNA Relief. The Pakistani community organizations, Islamic Centers and mosques across the country are also receiving overwhelming response from the community. The holy month of Ramadan is one reason for the surge in donations during which Muslims give Zakat (alm) to the poor and the needy. The over a dozen Muslim organizations that have announced the $20 million donation have joined hands under the umbrella of a permanent body called the American Muslim Taskforce for Disaster Relief (AMTFDR). It sent a letter to President George W. Bush, calling for forming an ad-hoc committee to offer coordinated relief to the quake victims, according to the U.S. Department of State’s information bureau. “The AMTFDR pledge effort is a cooperative attempt by the American Muslim community to provide relief in the most efficient and most abundant manner possible for the brothers and sisters of humanity that have suffered as the result of the significant earthquake in South Asia,” Ahmed Younis, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told a press conference while announcing the donation in Washington.

Bush Aide Meets With Muslims

By TARA BURGHART Associated Press writer ROSEMONT, Ill. – Karen Hughes, one of President Bush’s closest advisers, told a gathering of American Muslims on Friday that part of her new State Department job is to help amplify the voices of groups like theirs that are condemning terrorism and religious extremism. The Islamic Society of North America had invited Bush to attend its annual convention. He sent Hughes, who was recently confirmed as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Her tasks include improving the U.S. image in Muslims countries. “We need to foster a sense of common interest and common values among Americans and people of different faiths and different cultures,” Hughes said at a news conference opening the three-day event. “Frankly, who better to do that than many of our American Muslims themselves, who have friends and families and roots in countries across our world,” she said. The Indiana-based ISNA serves as an umbrella association for Muslim groups and mosques in the United States and Canada. Its convention comes just over a month after U.S. Muslim scholars issued a fatwa, or religious edict, condemning terrorism following deadly terrorist attacks this summer in London and Egypt. “The fatwa says that there is no justification in Islam for terrorism. Those are words the entire world needs to hear,” Hughes said. “And in delivering that message, I know that the most credible voices are of Muslims themselves. My job is to help amplify and magnify these voices.” At the news conference, ISNA unveiled a brochure outlining the Islamic position against terrorism and religious extremism. The pamphlet states that terrorism “is the epitome of injustice because it targets innocent people.” Kareem Irfan chaired the committee that produced the brochure and will be launching other initiatives to promote what ISNA calls “balanced Islam.” Despite “crystal clear statements stating the position of Islam and Muslims” against terrorism, there remains “inklings of doubt from segments of society,” he said. He said convention attendees, expected to total more than 30,000, will be asked to sign a pledge stating that they agree with the pamphlet’s position, and it will be distributed to mosques and churches. The convention was also attended by a 19-member delegation from Britain, where four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on London’s transit system in July. The British group held a private meeting with Hughes, and she also met separately with ISNA leaders, women and young people. ISNA’s vice president, Ingrid Mattson, said those attending the meetings with Hughes were frank about their disagreements with the Bush administration on everything from foreign policy to concerns over the erosion of civil liberties. Several told her about the problems they regularly have with air travel because their Muslim names or dress prompt suspicion. One man who was supposed to be in a Thursday night meeting with Hughes walked in at the end because he was held by airport security for three hours until his name was cleared, Mattson said.

Fatwa Stirs Debate Among U.S. Muslims Some Contend Anti-Terror Edict Meaningless

By RACHEL ZOLL AP religion writer As they issued an edict condemning religious extremism, American Muslims hoped to silence complaints from outsiders dating back to the Sept. 11 attacks that the community has done too little to confront terrorism. But as soon as last week’s statement was released, sharp criticism came from another source – within the U.S. Muslim community itself. Several American Muslim academics now say that the edict, or fatwa, was so broad it was meaningless, and should have denounced specific terrorist groups including al-Qaida. Critics also said the declaration seemed geared more toward improving the faith’s image rather than starting an honest discussion about Islamic teaching. “The bulk of the Islamic tradition as it exists does stand against these lunatic, savage attacks on civilians,” said Omid Safi, a Colgate University religion professor and chairman of the Progressive Muslim Union, an American reform group. “But I would be more inclined to say there are elements of extremism in many parts of our tradition. Rather than simply saying these are not a part of Islam, I would acknowledge that these trends are there and do away with them.” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights group which endorsed the fatwa, said no specific groups were named because “it would have been a laundry list.” “I think you can safely regard anyone listed on the State Department list (of terrorist groups) as included,” Hooper said. That list includes the Islamic militant group Hamas, which many Palestinians believe is waging a legitimate fight against Israel. “It’s not likely that someone who is already considering some act of terrorism would be dissuaded by this, but you never know if you’re going to prevent someone from going on the ideological road that would lead them to this activity,” Hooper said. Muslims around the world have been under renewed pressure to denounce terrorism following last month’s deadly bombings in Britain and Egypt, along with the drumbeat of insurgent attacks on civilians and coalition troops in Iraq. The U.S. fatwa, written by the Fiqh Council of North America, an advisory committee on Islamic law, said nothing in Islam justifies religious extremism or terrorism targeting civilians. The council further declared that Muslims were obligated to help law enforcement protect civilians anywhere from attacks. Fiqh Council chairman Muzammil H. Siddiqi said the edict applied even when a Muslim country has been taken over by a foreign power. In Britain last month, two groups of Muslim leaders separately denounced the July 7 London attacks, but one said suicide bombing could still be justified against an occupying power, while another said it could not. “Occupation is wrong, of course, but at the same time this is not the way,” Siddiqi said. But Abdullahi An-Na’im, who specializes in Islamic law and human rights at Emory University, said the American fatwa was misleading. He said the scholars could not say “in good faith” that Islamic law, called Shariah, required Muslims to assist an invader. “What is Shariah’s position on an invasion or occupation of a Muslim country by a non-Muslim country? Put bluntly in those terms, I don’t think that any credible scholar could say this is legitimate,” An-Na’im said. “If the same group of scholars were asked to issue a fatwa over the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which is the underlying thing, what would that fatwa be and how would Americans feel about it?” The debate is complicated by the fact that Islam has no ordained clergy or central authority, like a pope, who can hand down definitive teaching. Islamic leaders with conflicting views regularly claim they are authorized to issue the edicts. An-Na’im pointed out that Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has issued fatwas promoting violence against what he sees as Muslim oppressors; An-Na’im wondered why any Muslim would feel bound, then, to follow the American declaration denouncing it. Muqtedar Khan, a political scientist at the University of Delaware and author of “American Muslims,” said it appeared the main aim of the U.S. fatwa was protecting U.S. Muslim leaders and organizations from criticism. And the edict may have fallen short of even that goal, he said. “They should have been at least specific about events, if not individuals or organizations. They did not condemn al-Qaida or (Osama) bin laden. It would have had more punch to end all these claims that American Muslims are not doing enough to end terrorism if they had,” Khan said. Disagreement over the declaration was inevitable – American Islam is a diverse mix of millions of immigrants and U.S.-born converts. Also, there is no major center of Islamic learning in the United States, and some Muslims even questioned whether the 18 scholars who issued the fatwa had the classical training required to interpret Islamic law, Safi said. Yet even critics acknowledged something constructive could develop from the fatwa, despite its shortcomings. They hoped it would prompt Muslims to undertake a thorough examination of Islamic teachings and traditions to make a convincing case against terrorism. Said Safi: “There should be a follow-up conversation about what you do with the medieval legacy of how jihad (struggle) is undertaken, rather than saying these things are never a part of Islam.”

How Well Are American Muslims Fitting In? The Suicide Bombings In London Raise Questions Of Assimilation For The 3 Million Muslims In The US

By Howard LaFranchi Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor WASHINGTON – It’s called the “Virginia Jihad” case: Iraqi-American medical researcher Ali al-Yimimi, who preached in northern Virginia mosques and disseminated his radical thinking on the Web, was sentenced to life imprisonment last week. His crime: inciting followers, many of them young American-born Muslims, to a violent defense of Islam and war against the United States and its intervention in Islamic countries. Mr. Timimi’s sentencing in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom came against the backdrop of the London bombings, which British police now say were carried out by young British Muslims – and not foreign terrorists as in the case of the Sept. 11 attacks. They also say that the mastermind may have been a US-educated Egyptian chemist arrested Friday in Cairo. The London blasts not only brought the phenomenon of terrorists blowing themselves up to Western soil, but they raise new concerns of home-grown terrorism – not to mention a sense of dread about consequences among Britain’s predominately peaceful and moderate Muslim population of approximately 1.6 million. In the US, the attacks and events like the Virginia Jihad case are raising anxieties about immigrants and their allegiances in the midst of a rapidly expanding immigrant population. With a new report finding that births to foreign-born women in the US are at their highest level ever – nearly 1 in 4 – some experts are warning that the traditional rapid assimilation of immigrants risks breaking down – with potentially worrisome consequences. “Traditionally you had in the US an immigrant child learning to swim in a sea of native children, but increasingly it is the children of natives lost in a sea of children of immigrants,” says Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. His research of US Census figures shows that in 2002, 23 percent of US births were to immigrant mothers – up from 15 percent in 1990. The figure is closer to 25 percent today, Mr. Camarota adds, and could approach 30 percent by 2010. The vast majority of those children are born to Mexican and other immigrant Spanish-speaking women – a fact that prominent experts like Harvard’s Samuel Huntington, of “clash of civilizations” fame, say presents its own special challenges. Camarota estimates that the US Muslim population is about 3 million, including converts. Other organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, put the overall number much higher, at perhaps 6 million. Based on a 2002 study of US immigrants from the broader Middle East, Camarota estimates around 600,000 children of Muslim immigrants in the US. These facts, set in the context of new twists in Islamic terrorism, are raising questions about how well the children of Muslim immigrants are being assimilated. In California, the issue arose last month in the Central Valley town of Lodi – with a community of some 3,000 Muslims, mostly Pakistani immigrants or their descendants – where federal agents arrested two residents, a father and a son, for allegedly lying about links to terrorist-training camps in Pakistan, and two local imams. The Lodi case roiled the city’s Muslim community, raising worries about the sudden national spotlight, and drawing professions of allegiance and love for America from the local Muslim residents. Such cases appear to be feeding a growing sense of concern among Americans about immigration, and about Muslim immigrants in particular. In a new survey published last week by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, Americans joined other Westerners in the perception that Muslims have a strong and growing sense of Islamic identity, and want to remain distinct from the mainstream culture. “What we’re seeing is a relationship between a perception of separatism among Muslims living in these [North American and European] countries and serious concerns about extremism,” says Carolyn Funk, senior project director for the international survey of Islamic extremism. The survey of 17 countries did find that approval of terrorist acts such as suicide bombings is falling in many Muslim countries, with more Muslims expressing concerns about the threat posed by Islamic extremism to their own country. Even Osama bin Laden is losing some of the shine he enjoyed in some countries, such as Morocco and Indonesia, although the survey shows esteem for him actually rising in Jordan and Pakistan. In Western countries with sizable Muslim minorities, the survey shows, concerns about unassimilating populations run parallelel to worries about extremist violence. In the US, where 70 percent said they worried about Islamic extremism in their country, half said they sensed an increasing interest in Islamic identity, and generally saw that as a bad thing. “The US is on the lower end [when compared to European countries],” says Ms. Funk, “but the same trend is there.” Americans seem to be of two minds about immigration, with a new Gallup poll confirming that ambivalence: It finds that a large majority of Americans think immigration is good for the country, while at the same time feeling that current levels of immigration are too high. For experts like CIS’s Camarota and others, those misgivings reflect a concern about the ability – or desire – of some groups to assimilate. At the same time, many Muslim community representatives say assimilation has become more difficult as Islamic extremism has risen to have an impact on the West. And they add that addressing the isolation and fanaticism that can feed homegrown extremism has to be the work of both the Islamic community and the broader society. “The challenges for immigrants, and in particular for Muslims, are more formidable in the post-9/11 era; the assimilation process is a much more difficult mountain to climb,” says Salam al-Marayati, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. Comparing the assimilation process to something of a two-way street, he says there are essential roles for both the minority Muslim community and the majority society “to make sure that Islam and Muslims play a positive role in American pluralism.” He also says that public officials must do more to acknowledge the cooperation they are getting from and relationships they are building with the Muslim community. He notes for example that his organization is working with the Department of Justice and the FBI on an antiterrorism campaign that has resulted in community forums and training in 20 cities. But he says officials have never held the press conference acknowledging the program as promised. “All I can think is that there are political calculations that keep them from doing it,” Mr. Marayati says. If true, that would run counter to what many experts say is a key factor in preventing another attack on US soil: the cooperation and allegiance of American Muslims. Clearly many have played key roles in cases where law enforcement has been able to target activities with potentially violent designs. But some Muslims say more encouragement is needed. “There’s a lack of space for Muslims to contribute to the political and social spheres,” Marayati says, “and you end up with an exclusion of the American Muslim voice.”

Who Speaks For American Muslims?

American Muslims Are Under Scrutiny Since The 9/11 Attacks By Benjamin Duncan in Washington In a country of nearly 300 million people, injecting one’s voice into the public discourse is sometimes easier said than done. Despite the ubiquitous presence of cable television, satellite radio and the internet – all offering avenues for self-promotion – some US minority groups struggle to have their voices heard by the mainstream public. In particular, the American Muslim community, placed under intense scrutiny following the 11 September 2001 attacks, struggles to pursue a more expansive role in the news media, the entertainment industry and the political arena. Not having sufficient representation in these areas has contributed to a steady increase in anti-Muslim stereotypes and social bigotry, many Muslim activists say. Such problems were the central theme of Who Speaks for Muslims, a recent conference in Atlanta, Georgia, to examine ways to enhance the public voice of America’s five to seven million Muslims. Some Muslims Accuse The Media Of One-Dimensional Coverage The event brought together Muslim television and radio producers, print journalists, screenwriters and political figures to hold workshops and lectures on subjects ranging from film production to media influence. “Muslims speak for Muslims and it is our job to combat what we are seeing from the media,” said Qur’an Shakir, a spokeswoman for Taqwa Productions, a video production company that organised the conference. “We need to speak up instead of allowing the media to define us.” Mainstream Media Segments of the American Muslim community criticise the mainstream media for what they consider one-dimensional coverage that focuses on Muslim connections to terrorism and violence. “Muslims don’t want to be portrayed as terrorists or the feared one, because that’s not an accurate portrayal of who we are,” said Mahdi Bray, president of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, a civil rights organisation in Washington, DC. For those Muslim Americans who agree that the media inaccurately depict their religion, the key problem is the lack of Muslim commentators in television, radio and print journalism. “There is a drastic need for more intelligent Muslim voices on television” “There is a drastic need for more intelligent Muslim voices on television,” said Ahmed Younis, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a Los Angeles-based civil rights group. While representatives from major Muslim organisations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) appear frequently on cable news programmes, some argue that it pales in comparison to the media presence of anti-Muslim critics. “In comparison to the anti-Muslim and anti-Islam propaganda in the electronic and print media, Muslims are given very little time to explain their position,” said Abdus Sattar Ghazali, editor and publisher of the American Muslim Perspective, an online magazine based in Modesto, California. Dissenting View Not everyone agrees, however, that American Muslims are fighting a losing battle for media access. Far from being denied a place at the table, some Muslim activists say the community has made significant inroads into the world of newspaper and television coverage. “I think the Muslim voice in the media is perhaps better than in other areas because the media seeks out Muslim voices,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director. Despite the perception by some American Muslims that the mainstream media ignore their community, Hooper questioned the idea that news organisations were to blame for the lack of Muslim speakers. “It’s because we’re not making ourselves available, not because we’re not being sought out,” he said. Handling Media Learning how to engage the media more effectively at the local level was a central topic covered at the Who Speaks for Muslims conference, Shakir said. Those who attended received instruction on how to write a news release and how to contact media outlets. Muslims Urge Their Community To Engage The Media Effectively “[Local Muslim groups] need to arrange some type of team to find out who the major media groups are and who is in charge of what and to let them know that you’re available,” she said. The Muslim American Society holds frequent youth camps during which young people are schooled in media training, the internet and other areas. “We need to develop and nurture that future generation that will be policy experts,” Bray said. Expanding media participation, however, is just one aspect of a bigger picture for any minority group seeking to educate the public. Many Americans form impressions from music channels rather than news channels. Entertainment Entertainment programming, be it television sitcoms, Hollywood films or music videos, has become increasingly influential in the lives of average Americans. What viewers see on late-night television is as likely to inform their thoughts on politics and social issues as what they read in newspapers, many experts say. Whereas the “theological and political voice” of the American Muslim community is often heard, it is necessary to “integrate the cultural voice” as well, Bray said. “There are really not a lot of [Muslim] voices there … but we’re beginning to have some improvement,” Hooper said. Shakir said she could not “off the top of my head” name a single mainstream American Muslim director or producer in film or television. While there have been a few recent documentaries and small films directed by American Muslims, none has been distributed to large audiences. Perhaps the most well-known television show this year involving Muslim characters was 24, a one-hour drama on Fox that focused on a plot by Muslim terrorists to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States. After CAIR and other groups complained that the storyline stereotyped the American Muslim community, Fox aired a public service announcement telling viewers that the vast majority of American Muslims are loyal citizens. Political Front Progress in Hollywood, however, will likely go hand in hand with progress on the political front, another area where American Muslims are looking for a greater voice, Bray said. “I don’t believe you will have success in entertainment if you don’t have success in the political process,” he said. “It’s an integrated process.” In terms of elected office, Muslim candidates have achieved victories in local polls, but not at the federal level. In fact, no Muslim American has ever been elected to Congress. “We do need to have more representation” “We do need to have more representation,” Shakir said. Others are focused on engaging the Muslim community at all levels of politics, something Hooper said was critically important. “I don’t think we’re so concerned about having a Muslim elected to Congress without a grassroots process of support,” he said. Extremist Viewpoint Ultimately, anyone asking who speaks for American Muslims must also take into account the diversity, political and cultural, of that community, several activists said. “I don’t think that anyone speaks for all Muslims in this country,” Hooper said. With such a wide cross-section of belief systems in the American Muslim community, some more conservative than others, Ghazali said it was important to acknowledge differences while not allowing extremist viewpoints to overshadow the mainstream. “Of course, there is always diversity of opinion which should be taken into account,” he said. “But there is an opinion of the majority and an opinion of the minority, or fringe groups. The problem arises when the opinion of a fringe group is promoted.”

American Muslims Gather In Dallas To Talk About Sharing Their Faith With Others

By Greg Flakus Dallas Hundreds of Muslims have gathered in Dallas, Texas for the Islamic Society of North America’s Third Annual South Central Regional Conference. The main goal of conference organizers is to build understanding with people of other faiths. Several hundred people came together in a hotel ballroom Friday to pray as the three-day conference got under way. Although men and women sat in separate sections of the hall, the Muslim cleric spoke to all believers, calling on them to be charitable toward their non-Muslim neighbors, not as a pretext for attracting them to Islam, but because that is what God calls on them to do. The message is similar to what might be heard in a Christian or Jewish service, because, as Muslim leaders are quick to point out, the three religions share common origins and beliefs. All three religions are based on belief in one God, yet many non-Muslims still regard Islam as an exotic religion. The theme of this conference is “Sharing Islam with our Neighbors,” and organizers note that this does not necessarily refer to proselytizing. The secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, says that the eight-to-ten million people of the Islamic faith who live in the United States today are in a unique position to help Americans understand this religion and its worldwide influence. “Muslims of America are an asset to America because they are bridge between America and the rest of the Muslim world and we take that role very seriously,” he said. Mr. Syeed says those Americans who embrace Islam also have a responsibility to bring about a better understanding of this country in the areas of the world where Islam is the dominant religion. “Muslims in the world have to understand that there is a Muslim population here who are practicing Islam in their day-to-day lives. Then, it is our duty to express, interpret and explain Islam to our fellow Americans, and it is our duty to explain America to our fellow Muslims,” he said. Muslims here feel a special bond with other Muslims in the Middle East and are concerned about the turmoil in that region. One of the main speakers at this conference is a State Department official who has come to explain U.S. policy in the Middle East. This conference also includes special sessions on the growth of Islam among American Latinos, including forums conducted in Spanish where people explain why they converted to Islam.

American Muslims Want “Role In Politics”

Even the most religiously traditional Muslims believe they should participate in American politics, according to a newly released study of one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation. The survey of Detroit-area Muslims is the latest to show that the isolationism that once pervaded the immigrant Muslim community is dissipating. Muslims ranked protecting their civil rights as a top public policy issue, according to the study.