BALTIMORE – Amid increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric in election campaign, a national American-Muslim organization is bringing its annual convention to Baltimore to dispel myths about Islam and Muslims.
“Islam encourages us to work for justice in the society, but what extremists are doing goes directly against the principals of Islam,” Naeem Baig, president of the Islamic Circle of North America organization (ICNA) told Fox Baltimore on Sunday, May 29.
The 41st national conference of the Islamic Circle of North America opened on Saturday, May 28 and runs to May 30, 2016.
More than 25,000 Muslims from across the United States are expected to attend the conference held under the theme: “Quran: The Divine Guidance”.
It comes as American Muslims face growing levels of suspicion and intolerance, triggered both by presidential primaries and the rise of ISIS.
Muslim leaders and organizations in the United States have condemned attacks on Paris, San Bernardino, Calif., and Brussels.
Yet, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has catalogued an increase in anti-Muslim incidents and rhetoric in recent months.
According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims are the fastest growing religious group in the world, next to Christianity. There were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world in 2010.
“I can tell you that ISIS does not even represent one percent of them,” Baig said.
He added that the Muslim community is working against violence and extremism.
“When people see the images coming from Syria or from Iraq or from other places of dead children it affects us all. If you’re Muslim, not Muslim, doesn’t really matter. Violence is something that as human beings, we despise violence,” Baig said.
“Our message to our Muslim community is that if there is any kind of extremist thought anywhere, challenge that and help them understand what real Islam is,” Baig said.
“Islam is very old and historic religion. Its scripture is much like the scripture in other major religions is all about preaching tolerance in places. It also is a little harsher in other places, but we should acknowledge that all these religions have moments like that, said Chris Canary, a history teacher from Philadelphia who was visiting Baltimore.
“The major message of Islam, is the peace and mercy to all mankind,” Essa said.
The convention is expected to draw tens of thousands for programs aimed at “dispelling destructive myths about the Islamic faith and about Muslim Americans.”
“It’s a lot of speakers and I can get some knowledge from great scholars all over the US, and to be good examples for Muslims, especially with these circumstances around the world and in the US, and to represent Islam in a good way,” Ismael Essa, one of the attendants, said.
The convention will feature a bazaar, a Quran recitation contest, children’s activities, and dawah workshops as well as talks by Islamic scholars and imams from across the United States.
The majority of attendees will be Muslim Americans, organizers say, but all activities are open to the public.
Organizers plan for three workshops aimed at educating non-Muslims about the faith.
ICNA is one of the largest, non-profit, grassroots Muslim organizations in North America with many projects, programs, and activities designed to help in reforming society at large.
Since 1968, ICNA has worked to build relations between communities by devoting itself to education, outreach, social services and relief efforts.