Travel Ban Dominates US Muslims Convention

CHICAGO – Muslims gathering in Chicago for the largest annual convention in North America have decried the application of Donald Trump’s travel ban on refugees and visitors from six Muslim-majority countries, lamenting the rise of hate crimes due to his heated anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“His statements and his rhetoric have caused a great amount of harm to the American Muslim community,” said Azhar Azeez, president of the ISNA, which believes the ban will ultimately be proven unconstitutional, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Saturday, July 1.

“This country has always been an inclusive nation, a tolerant nation,” Azeez said, “and we as Americans have an obligation to make sure we uphold all these things.”

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) 54th annual convention opened on Friday in Chicago.

The Convention themed, “Hope and Guidance Through the Qur’an,” brings together both Muslim and interfaith individuals, families, businesses and non-profit organizations for a full schedule of lectures, discussions, debates and entertainment.

Government and interfaith leaders, as well as heads of organizations brought greetings and well wishes for a successful gathering during the inaugural session.

A limited version of Trump’s travel ban — temporarily barring refugees and visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — took effect on Thursday, after the US Supreme Court allowed it to be enforced pending a full hearing in October.

The Trump administration claims the ban is necessary to keep terrorists out of the country, but immigrant advocates charge that it illegally singles out Muslims — in line with campaign pledges by Trump to bar all Muslims from the country.

Fear & Hope

Discussions at the convention were mainly focused on the ban with attendants, even those who will not be directly affected by the ban.

Convention attendee Arishaa Khan is one of them.

“This ban has been tumultuous,” the 27-year-old American citizen from Pakistan said, adding that she sees friends and family “posting on Facebook before they go on international flights, asking for lawyers to be on standby.”

Other participants said they had been heartened by the show of support by Americans of many religious denominations, with members of Catholic, Lutheran and Jewish faiths set to attend the three-day convention.

They pointed to the protesters who showed up at US airports, along with lawyers offering pro-bono legal help, as the new ban took effect.

“We had a lot of people come to visit in the mosque… to show support. And it was very nice,” said Muhammad Abdellatif, who was attending the convention from Houston.

But others pointed to recent incidents of attacks against Muslims as evidence of increased Islamophobia, and accused far-right groups, and the US president himself, of fanning tensions.

“This Ramadan, in particular, was a very difficult one for many in the community,” said Asra Ali, a Chicago-area dentist and convention organizer, referring to the Muslim holiday of fasting which ended last Saturday.

Estimates put the Muslim population in the US at between five and eight million.

ISNA is the largest Muslim umbrella organization in North America.

ISNA’s annual convention dates back to 1963, when the first such event was organized by the predecessor to ISNA, the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada.