January 23, 2005|By Reporting: Jeff Lyon.
HELD: Dec. 22-26 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
ATTENDED BY: 4,000 U. S. Muslims.
AIM: To integrate what spokesman Mahdi Bray called a “formerly insular” population “into the mainstream of American life,” with an emphasis on gaining political leverage at the grass-roots level and contributing to the larger U. S. community. At one lecture, for example, attendees learned how a local MAS chapter participated in the Minnesota presidential caucuses-even though 24 hours earlier, members hadn’t a clue what a caucus was.
Said Bray: “Our focus in this post 9/11 environment is how do we increase our civic engagement and correct the misconception that we don’t want to integrate while dealing with the opinion of 44 percent of Americans that it’s OK to violate our rights, even though we’re citizens just like them.”
THE SCENE: Christmas was just another day for attendees as they took in lectures reflecting the theme, “Working for the Greater Good.” It was a combination family affair, with youngsters everywhere; religious event; social occasion, with much chatting over tea; and shopping opportunity, with a bazaar selling everything from headscarves to fragrant oils.
QUOTABLE: “We are going from a marginal immigrant community only concerned with protecting its identity to one facing the challenge of making sure that Islam will be part of the social and moral fabric of this society.”
–ESAM OMEISH, PRESIDENT OF MAS EXECUTIVE COUNCIL