Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
December 27, 2002 | Fuller, James
Byline: James Fuller Daily Herald Staff Writer
Facing new challenges and perceptions changed by the terrorist attacks of last year, several hundred Muslims gathered Thursday in Rosemont to promote unity and increase understanding of the Islamic faith.
The beginning of a four-day conference at the Donald E. Stephens Convention center offered a broad, but focused, sampling of the overlying theme -“Muslim Americans for a Better World.”
Muslims from across the country are expected to attend. Organizers estimate some 15,000 attendees will take part in various panels.
Discussion on the first day covered Muslim-American history, teaching at Islamic schools, Muslim women in the Western world, immigration law, parenting and politics.
Nearly 60 panelists representing a “Who’s Who” of experts on the Islamic faith and Muslim world will speak during the conference.
Young Muslims have special programs they can attend that will allow children to learn about their faith through a variety of skits and competitions.
During presentation breaks, a bazaar is available in a separate room. Religious books and literature about marriage, jihad, prayers, charity and several translations of the Quran are on sale. Various Islamic tapes and music are available as are koofies, jilbabs, ababyahs and other clothing. Toys and jewelry may also be purchased.
The Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America organized the conference, the second this year, in hopes that all the grass-roots organizations of their faith will eventually come together in one voice.
“We are trying to promote a vision of Islam that does not harbor on the divisions in our faith,” said Osam Omaish, a spokesman for the Muslim American Society.
Omaish said it’s important for Muslims to break out of their individual lives and work to improve their community and the world at large. That message is especially important because of the stereotypes and hatred experienced by Muslims after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Number one, we are part and parcel of the American society,” Omaish said. “We are part of the melting pot. It’s not enough to be good to ourselves or our neighbors. We have a greater obligation to the community at large.
“It is more pressing for us than ever to reach out and let people know what true Islam is about,” he said. “It’s more than rights and respect. It’s also about responsibility. There’s a greater good to be obtained in being a good Muslim. Unless we do that, we’re not really showing the true colors of Islam.”
With support from other Islamic organizations, the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America plan to continue the annual conventions. Omaish predicted attendance should hit 40,000 to 50,000 people within the next three years if attendance growth continues.
“This is a call to unify the activists,” Omaish said. “We must unify our resources if we want to influence the environment around us and challenge the stereotypes.”