By David A. Brensilver
Hartford — Muslim leaders hope next month to inform members of other faiths about theirs, and to dispel myths and stereotypes perpetuated by what the Islamic Circle of North America's secretary general called the “irresponsible media.”
“Islam remains the most misunderstood religion in America,” Naeem Baig said.
At a press conference at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford Monday, Baig announced that the New York-based nonprofit Islamic Circle, with support from the Muslim American Society and the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, will hold its 32nd annual convention at the Convention Center July 6-8.
This will be the third consecutive year Hartford has hosted the convention, which is expected to draw 10,000 of the Islamic Circle's membership, most of whom are located in the Northeast, Baig said.
The three-day convention includes a daylong, town hall-style symposium, “Window to Islam,” which Baig said would address the issue of “Islamophobia.”
In calling certain outlets “irresponsible,” Baig said, “The media is not being just and balanced” in its coverage of events abroad that can affect perceptions of Muslim-Americans in the United States.
“Window to Islam” has been organized to offer “an understanding of the true principals of Islam,” according to East Lyme resident Imran Ahmed, who sits on the board of the Islamic Center of New London.
Ahmed, reached by telephone before the press conference, echoed Baig's lament that certain media outlets have misrepresented Islam in covering the violent actions of Islamic extremists around the world.
Ahmed said the majority of Muslim-Americans living in this country “are not living in a cave with an AK-47 next to them.”
But, he added, relations between Muslim-Americans and their neighbors in southeastern Connecticut are “better than most places.”
Old Lyme resident Badr Malik agreed. Malik, executive director of CAIR's Connecticut chapter, which is located in New London, said the nonprofit will present information sessions on immigration and civil rights during the convention. On July 1 CAIR plans to open an office in Hartford, which has pockets of Muslim immigrants from Somalia and Bosnia, he said. Malik estimated that there are between 7 million and 8 million “peace-loving” Muslims in America. “The media is just covering those bad guys,” he said.
The convention's theme is “Muhammad, Mercy to Humanity and Beyond.” Baig said the event, expected to be the largest of its kind this year, will offer seminars, interactive workshops, programs for youth and women, interfaith activities, a bazaar and a basketball tournament. Islamic scholars and other experts, including Renee Redman, legal director for the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, are scheduled to speak.
For information and to register for the convention, call 718-658-1199 or visit http://convention.icna.org. “Window to Islam” will take place July 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Convention Center, and is free and open to the public. For more information about the symposium, call toll free 877-949-4752 or visit www.windowtoislam.org.