Muslim delegates at Democratic convention quadrupled since 2004

The number of Muslim delegates attending the Democratic National Convention has quadrupled since 2004, according to a Muslim advocacy group.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations counts more than 100 Muslim delegates representing some 20 states at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week. That’s up from 25 delegates in 2004, according to CAIR.

CAIR government affairs coordinator Robert McCaw said the numbers were “a sign of the American Muslim community’s growing civic engagement and acceptance in the Democratic Party.” He also said that Democrats had targeted outreach to American Muslims.

A “handful” of Muslims were delegates at the Republic National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., McGraw said. Campaign officials for Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama’s GOP challenger, did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats invited a Muslim cleric to deliver a blessing during their conventions, even as Christian, Jewish and Sikh leaders received invitations.

Most Muslim Americans voted Republican through the 2000 presidential election, but switched allegiances after the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 security policies, which some Muslims believe unfairly target their community. And while former President George W. Bush called Islam a “religion of peace,” some conservative Republicans now push for state laws to ban Shariah, Islamic law. The national GOP platform approved last week declares that U.S. courts should not consider foreign laws in their decisions.

More than 20, 000 Muslims attend conference in Toronto

News Agencies – December 27, 2011

Over 20,000 people showed up at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre for the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention to listen to leading Muslim scholars, personalities and artists. Ticket sales to the convention were closed on Saturday evening as the facilities reached its capacity. Overflow rooms with TV screens were set up to handle the large crowd that showed up for the annual gathering, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Organized by a group of young, active Canadian Muslims, the three-day convention opened on Friday, December 23. The theme of the convention, “Control, Chaos or Community: Three Ways, One World, Our Choice”, was chosen to address the many challenges plaguing humanity today beyond the confines of cultural, religious or intellectual divides, according to the organizers.

Leading among attendees were prominent scholar Dr Jamal Badawi and Sheikh Abdallah Idris from Canada, Prof. Tariq Ramadan from Switzerland and Dr. John Esposito from the United States. Also attending were Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah from Mauritania, Habib Ali Al-Jifri from Yemen and Dr. Tawfique Chowdhury from Australia.

Le Bourget, Europe’s largest and most popular Muslim convention, opens outside Paris

Le Bourget, organized by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF), is considered the largest Muslim convention in Europe. The conference, which takes place every year in the northeastern Paris suburb of Le Bourget, has long been the best destination to raise funds to build mosques. Some 200,000 people, from France and other European countries, are expected to participate in the activities of the four-day gathering.

These two articles from IslamOnline.net examine the variety of services available at the Muslim Convention, from listening to scholars, to buying Islamic literature or clothes, to looking for a spouse. “Tens of young men and women come to Le Bourget to find a future husband or wife,” Maryam La’khdar, who has a special booth to facilitate relations between Muslim couples. Another group is selling t-shirts inscribed with 1330, the approximate number of Palestinians killed in the recent Israeli war on Gaza, to raise awareness and send supportive funds.

UK Muslim convention to be used as ‘a rallying call for peace’

One of Britain’s oldest Muslim communities will use its annual gathering this weekend to show how it could provide a model for other Muslims of how to live in perfect harmony with others. This weekend, 30,000 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community will gather for the biggest annual gathering of UK Muslims. This is the 42nd Annual Ahmadiyya Muslim Convention to take place in Britain and will be based in a huge temporary village of 200 marquees at a site near Alton, Hampshire on July 25-27. Khalifa Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who is based in London, will invite the world to reflect on the true message of all religions, including Islam. It will be a rallying call for peace, to be replicated by Ahmadi Muslims in 190 countries across the world. Mr Rafiq Hayat, president of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, said the UK Government, which earlier this year launched a fund to support work that helps individuals, organisations and communities to tackle violent extremist influences, should first look at the good practices that already exist in Muslim communities such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Jon Land reports.

In Hartford, Thousands Gather To Celebrate Islam

The annual Islamic Circle of North America convention drew thousands at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, bringing Muslims from a wide variety of backgrounds, mixing “tradition” with the “modern.” Women with headscarves holding Starbucks coffee cups, American converts, and Muslim Americans from states including Texas and the Carolinas came to the convention, drawing more than 15,000 people. Themes of the convention included family, educating young people on the “true meaning” of Islam, and helping overcome misperceptions of Muslims to non-Muslims.

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In Hartford, Thousands Gather To Celebrate Islam

The annual Islamic Circle of North America convention drew thousands at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, bringing Muslims from a wide variety of backgrounds, mixing tradition with the modern. Women with headscarves holding Starbucks coffee cups, American converts, and Muslim Americans from states including Texas and the Carolinas came to the convention, drawing more than 15,000 people. Themes of the convention included family, educating young people on the true meaning of Islam, and helping overcome misperceptions of Muslims to non-Muslims.

Bewildered infants await fate in Chad orphanage

Members of the French charity Zoe’s Ark were detained as they were preparing to fly 103 children out of the Chadian city of Abeche. The plane’s crew, all Spanish citizens, are also being held by Chadian authorities. The children, largely from Sudan’s Darfur region, were intended to be smuggled to Europe by the charity workers – justified by the Geneva convention and international law, according to an update on the Zoe’s Ark website. The Chadian government is currently conducting investigations on the smuggling attempt.

At Baptist convention, former Watergate figure warns of militant Islam, atheism

SAN ANTONIO: A figure from the 1970s Watergate political scandal, Chuck Colson, warned a gathering of Southern Baptist pastors against what he described as two dire threats: the deadly marriage of Islam and fascism and a new, militant atheism growing in popularity in the West. Colson, a former “hatchet man” for former President Richard Nixon who became a born-again Christian and founded an evangelical ministry to prisoners, called on Christians to do a better job of explaining their religion’s worldview. Colson, 75, spoke Sunday at a conference that precedes the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which begins here Tuesday. At one point, Colson said “Islam is a vicious, evil … ” and then before finishing the sentence, said, “Islamo-fascism is evil incarnate.” “Islamists,” Colson said, “are very different. We will die for what we believe. They will kill for what they believe.”

A New Face for Islam in North America

Ingrid Mattson had given up God. She had stopped saying her rosaries, stopped taking Communion. She was an atheist, abroad in Paris the summer before her senior year of college. But she could not stop listening to the Koran. “Forget it,” she told herself. “This can’t be happening to me.” Yet day after day, she popped the cassette into her Walkman, mesmerized by the chanting and oddly moved by lines such as: “The sun and the moon follow courses computed. And the herbs and the trees both bow in adoration_ It is he who has spread out the earth for [his] creatures.” When she returned home to Canada after that summer of 1986, Mattson signed up for the only Arabic class she could find. It was full of 8-year-old immigrants, who soon came to resent her for winning so many of the chocolates the teacher awarded top students. Mattson wanted to enjoy hanging out in bars with her brothers, the way she always had. Instead, she found herself at her sewing machine, stitching head scarves. That spring, she gathered several Muslim friends as witnesses and pledged herself to Allah. It was an unusual move for a white Canadian ex-Catholic. And it set Mattson down a trailblazing path. About 60,000 Muslims in the U.S. and Canada recently elected Mattson, 43, president of the largest Muslim organization on the continent, an educational and professional association called the Islamic Society of North America. She is the first woman, nonimmigrant or convert to Islam to become president of the group. Her election comes at a tumultuous time for the estimated 6 million Muslims in the U.S. Nearly 40% of Americans admit prejudice against Muslims, according to a recent poll by USA Today and Gallup. A similar percentage support mandatory identification cards for Muslims. And one in five Americans said they would not want a Muslim neighbor. Many Muslims are hoping Mattson can soften this fear. She does not speak with a foreign accent. She doesn’t wear a veil, though she does cover her head with a thick, dark scarf. Soft-spoken and quick to smile, Mattson is a suburban soccer mom; she cheers at her son’s games, helps her daughter with college applications, gardens, hikes, reads the New Yorker, laughs at Paris Hilton’s reality TV. “Many Americans think we didn’t arrive in this country until 9/11. She helps people know we’re part of the American landscape,” said Aneesah Nadir, the president of an Islamic social services agency based in Phoenix. Such comments were a frequent refrain at the Islamic society’s annual convention, which drew more than 32,000 Muslims to this suburb of Chicago earlier this month. Mattson was mobbed by fans wanting to take her picture. One father brought his five daughters from South Carolina to meet her. “She’s a visible refutation of stereotypes,” said Hasan Aijaz, a college student from Virginia. Outside the organization, Muslims have greeted Mattson’s election more warily. She’s received angry letters from conservatives who resent having a woman in charge. Such critics often cite an ancient hadith, or narrative about the life of the prophet Muhammad, stating that no good will come from entrusting leadership to a woman. The Islamic left has questioned Mattson’s credentials as well. A traditionalist who dresses in modest ankle-length skirts and loose blouses – and who prefers, whenever possible, to avoid shaking men’s hands – Mattson pushes women’s rights only so far. She has called for mosques to dismantle any barriers that block women from seeing or clearly hearing the imam during prayer. But she does not support the more radical, feminist notion that women should pray alongside men – or even lead men in prayer. Many Muslims argue that such an arrangement would distract men from God or lead to immoral conduct. Mattson explains her objection this way: The prophet would not have approved. Mattson’s journey to Islam began when she was a teenager in the Canadian town of Kitchener, Ontario. As a girl, she had been the most pious in her family of seven children, but when she entered high school, she began to find bedrock concepts such as the Holy Trinity illogical. The nuns and priests at her Catholic school were unable to answer her questions. “Accept the mystery,” they told her. She couldn’t. Though she stayed on at St. Mary’s High School, Mattson stopped looking for God. Years later, during her summer in Paris, Mattson became friendly with several West African Muslims. They introduced her to Islam; her spirit stirred. “What moved me most was the way the Koran described the majesty and beauty of creation,” she said. One of her favorite passages tells of God’s handiwork: “He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together… Out of them come pearls and coral… And his are the ships sailing smoothly through the seas, lofty as mountains.” After graduating from the University of Waterloo, Mattson worked in a refugee camp in Pakistan, where she met her husband, an Egyptian engineer. He took care of their small children while she earned a doctorate in Islamic studies from the University of Chicago. Since 1998, she has been teaching about Islam at Hartford Seminary, a nondenominational Christian institution in Connecticut. As president of the Islamic Society of North America – an unpaid part-time post – Mattson will lead a diverse organization that trains Muslim leaders, sets standards for hundreds of mosques, helps immigrants adjust to American life and serves as an umbrella uniting associations of Muslim engineers, doctors and other professionals. She will also be a very visible spokeswoman for the faith – a role she relishes. In particular, she can’t wait to refute the notion that Islam is a religion solely “for brown and black people,” she said. “When African Americans make the move to Islam, it’s considered valid. When I do, it’s considered cultural apostasy, as if somehow I’ve abandoned my whiteness to become an ‘other,’ ” Mattson said. In the past, many Muslims – like evangelical Christians before them – argued that they had to isolate themselves from American politics and culture in order to keep their faith pure. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Mattson argues that Muslims no longer have that luxury. “We need to form an axis of good with our neighbors,” she said. “We’re 2% of the American population. How are we going to be effective unless we make alliances?” Her push for interfaith partnerships got off to a shaky start when the Islamic society invited former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to address the convention. Jay Tcath, vice president of the Chicago Jewish Federation, accused the organization of “a dereliction of civic responsibility” for honoring Khatami despite his record of human rights abuses. The Anti-Defamation League also takes issue with the Islamic society for having provided a forum for anti-Semitic language at several conferences over the years, said Deborah Lauter, the group’s national civil rights director. The organization’s leaders “have been in bed with extremist groups,” Lauter said, “[so] we go into these relationships with some serious concerns.” Mattson says her group does not invite speakers “known for offensive statements,” but offers “as broad a platform as possible for legitimate views.” At the convention’s opening seminar, Mattson urged her fellow Muslims to step proudly into mainstream society, to engage their neighbors and promote their good works until Americans stop associating Islam with terror. “Islamic medical clinics… Islamic ethics. Islamic charity. These are the terms that should come off the tips of tongues,” she told a cheering crowd. “Islamic intellectuals. Islamic peace movements. Islamic human rights… This is who we are!”

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.