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9/11 Tops the Agenda of U.S. Islamic Gathering

Conference: Prayers for victims, Muslims targeted after attacks lead off D.C. meeting.

August 31, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The largest annual gathering of American Muslims began Friday with prayers for victims of Sept. 11 and for Muslims who have been harassed since the attacks.

Muhammad Nur Abdullah, president of the Islamic Society of North America, said in his opening address that Islam condemns violence and that Muslims, like others in the United States, want the terrorists to be punished. "We're for justice," said Abdullah, a St. Louis imam, standing on a stage flanked by U.S. flags. "This is our country. American Muslims, we care for the betterment of this country and for every human being."

Khadija Abdullah of Los Angeles read a prayer she wrote for those who died in the suicide strikes, thanking God for the efforts of the rescue workers and for the "comfort and courage" that victims gave their families in their final phone calls. She also urged Muslims to "answer scapegoating and hatred" with love.

The effect of the attacks is a central theme of the conference, the most important U.S. Muslim meeting this year. Up to 30,000 people are expected at the four-day event, run by the Islamic Society.

It is the first time the convention--in its 39th year--is being held in the nation's capital and comes as Muslims seek a greater public voice in what for many is their adopted country.

They have taken pains since the hijackings to proclaim their loyalty to the U.S., even as critics--including the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham--condemned the religion as evil.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group, has received 2,000 reports of harassment of Muslims since Sept. 11.

The meeting's opening prayer was a verse from the Koran that urges Muslims to "stand firm for Allah" and "let not the hatred of others

The conference will touch on many facets of Muslim life, including health care, parenting, charter schools and investing. Muslim law restricts how much profit may be made on investments.

Marriage also will be on the agenda. Families seeking spouses for their children will have the chance to meet face-to-face through a marriage service.

The National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, including the National Lawyers Guild and the American Muslim Council, has scheduled a rally Sunday at Freedom Plaza.

The event will end with a discussion of political strategy. Muslim groups made their first collective endorsement of a presidential candidate in the 2000 race, when they backed George W. Bush.

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