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A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against the execution of Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London, Britain, January 3, 2016. Toby Melville/Reuters

ISNA and ICNA condemn killing of Saudi Shia cleric

A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against the execution of Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London, Britain, January 3, 2016. Toby Melville/Reuters

A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against the execution of Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr An-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London, Britain, January 3, 2016. Toby Melville/Reuters

By Aatif Ali Bokhari

TMO Managing Editor

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) have condemned the execution of Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir An-Nimr and three other Shia activists this week. ICNA and ISNA are two of the largest Sunni Muslim umbrella organizations in North America.

Sheikh Nimr had criticized the Saudi government’s treatment of the Shia religious minority and had called for political reform.

In a statement, ISNA President Azhar Azeez said, “The actions taken by the Saudi government against its critics like Sheikh Nimr in the name of counter-terrorism undermine the unity of the worldwide Muslim community and violates the protection of religious minorities.”

ICNA also released a statement that denounced the execution.

“ICNA believes that all citizens of any country have the right to voice their opinion peacefully and these executions go against the universal concepts of justice and freedom,” said the statement. “We believe that these executions undermine Shia-Sunni relations and makes peace in the Middle East, the main objective of Muslims in the region, a more difficult goal to achieve.

“ICNA appeals to all political leaders and religious scholars in the U.S., the Middle East and everywhere else to work vigorously for the unity and harmony among all Muslims.”

Reaction to the statements on ISNA and ICNA’s Facebook pages was highly polarized, with some in support of Saudi and its allies and others in support of Sheikh Nimr. Khalid Goncalves was one who appeared for calm on both sides.

“The powers that be want Muslims to fight each other. To them, there would be nothing worse than a truly united ‘ummah. Please don’t fall for the extremist rhetoric on either side. Condemn all unjust killings and engage in dialogue with your Sunni and Shi’i brothers and sisters,” he said.

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Largest Muslim convention held in Chicago

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By Muneeb Nasir
OnIslam Correspondent

CHICAGO – Muslims from across North America streamed into Chicago’s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on Friday to attend the opening day of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) 52nd Annual Convention, the largest gathering of its kind on the continent.

“This convention creates a certain type of excitement,” said ISNA Secretary General Hazem Bata at the opening press conference. “This is a convention by Muslims but it is for everyone. This is not just a Muslim event but this is an American event.”

“It is also a Chicago event and Chicago does not disappoint,” he added. “While our focus remains Muslims in America we’ve some prominent sessions on international issues.”

The four-day convention is themed ‘Stories of Resilience: Strengthening the American Muslim Narrative’ and, according to ISNA President Azhar Azeez, the event would showcase stories of unsung heroes in the American Muslim community as well as success stories of families, masjids [mosques] and community initiatives.

Azeez welcomed the delegates during a passionate Friday sermon and during the inaugural plenary session.

“The theme of this convention is inspired from the verse of the Qur’an in Surah Yusuf, “We do relate unto thee the most beautiful of stories (Qur’an 12:3)’,” Azeez told the Friday prayer gathering. “This is what this convention is about – stories of American Muslims, stories of resilience.”

“Seventy thousand Muslims are serving as doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals in America and saving lives every day,” he said. “This is what we must share with America.”

“The greatest athlete of this nation was Muhammad Ali,” Azeez noted. “This is what we must share with America, and the stories of many others who are contributing to the growth and prosperity of this nation.”

Following the Friday prayer, the well-known American leader, Imam Zaid Shakir led the gathering in an inspiring and emotional supplication for the Syrian refugees.

International participation

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

The Turkish Ambassador to America read a special message from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the convention and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent a welcome message.

Going beyond the headlines was the topic of an engaging evening session as panelists looked at how to deal with the overwhelming news coverage and constant stream of social media information about Muslims.

“While we see and hear from Muslim newsmakers, we rarely have the opportunity to hear their insights about those news stories, what they wanted to express beyond the sound bytes and especially their personal experiences being thrust into the spotlight,” noted ISNA organizers about the session.

“What resonates with people is your values,” said Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York.

”I use my opportunities to talk about things that resonate with people.

Sarsour has been featured in local, national, and international media speaking on topics ranging from women’s issues, Islam, domestic policy and political discussions on the Middle East conflict.
“I’ve been able to bring the truth of my community to the public,” added Sarsour.

“People want to know that Islam is a faith of justice.”

At a later Friday session, ISNA officials and a distinguished group of American Islamic scholars launched a statement calling for inclusive, women-friendly mosques across North America.

“I want to welcome you to this celebration,” Dr. Ihsan Bagby of ISNA’s Task Force for Women-Friendly Masjids told the audience at the unveiling of the statement. “This is a historic step, this is a historic gathering.”

“You need to take this statement to your masjid,” Bagby advised the gathering. “Let us see change.”

The statement calls for women to have a prayer space in the main musalla (prayer hall) which is behind the lines of men but not behind a full barrier that disconnects women from the main musalla and prevents them from seeing the imam.

The statement recommends that women actively participate in the decision-making process of the masjid, best realized by having women on the governing bodies of masajid.

The convention will continue throughout the weekend is packed with plenary sessions to be addressed by prominent Muslim speakers and includes workshops on a variety of topics.
The Donald E. Stephens Convention Center is located in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

The Muslim community, estimated at over 400,000 in the greater Chicago area, is one of the most diverse in the country and has been integral to the success of the ISNA conventions.

According to the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), “The Council has been an indispensable partner with ISNA in organizing and managing the conventions, particularly the many conventions held in Chicago during the 1990s. In recent years, the ISNA annual convention has become one of the world’s largest gatherings of Muslims, attended by approximately 50,000 people.”

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Anticipated Date for Eid al-Adha is Nov 6, 2011

10545_596In preparation for Eid al-Adha, many in the community are eager to find out if the final date has been announced.  ISNA follows the decision of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA)  to determine the date for both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. In the case of Eid al-Adha, the Fiqh Council uses the date determined by the Hajj authorities in Makkah. 

This date has only been tentatively calculated at this point for Sunday November 6, 2011.

The official date will be announced by the Hajj authorities, and followed by FCNA and ISNA, later this month.  As soon as the Hajj authorities announce the official date, FCNA and ISNA will let the community know.  ISNA will send an email announcement to every person on our mailing list and will also post it at the top of our website.

For more information, please refer to a statement released by FCNA earlier this week regarding the determination of the date of Eid al-Adha in the year 2011 (1432).

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Another Angle on the Moon

By Adil James, TMO

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Despite ISNA’s endorsement of the moon calculations performed by the Fiqh Council of North America, the debate in the Muslim community over the necessity of physically sighting the moon continues, and an interesting contribution to that debate has been made by Mr. Nabeel Tarabishy, of Goodsamt, LLC.  Mr. Tarabishy spoke Saturday night at the Islamic Cultural Association before a small gathering on the subject “The Moon and the Islamic Calendar.”

Mr. Tarabishy’s speech delved into background issues concerning the astronomy of moon sighting, and then described his own approach to the issue in relation to the ongoing debate.
He began by exploring the Qur`anic Ayas concerning seeking knowledge, pointing out the important issue that Allah in Holy Qur`an said that the intercalation of the months that had been done by the pagan Arabs before Islam was not just wrong, not just kufr, but was “excessive kufr,” thus showing the importance to Allah of our seeking to understand and abide by the underlying structure of the universe determined the Almighty.  “We can’t change the facts of the universe according to our desire, we must accept facts, and truth,” he said.

Allah Himself divided the year into 12 months, the week into 7 days.

Tarabishy also pointed out that no world civilization has existed without a calendar, and he explored the history of the Christian Julian and Gregorian calendars.  He explained that the lunar year is 11 days shorter than the solar year, and he spoke about the intercalation done by the Jewish and Chinese calendars–which he explained is done in a “less chaotic” fashion than was done by the pagan Arabs before Islam.

Then Tarabishy explored the physical dimensions of the lunar and solar progression through the seasons and months and years, and described the physical positions of those three astronomical bodies over the year.

Then he introduced his argument that the Islamic calendar–as a window to our history and culture and more–should be made as predictable as the solar calendar, arguing that it should be possible to plan travel to coincide with any specific day of the Islamic year, thus calculations will be necessary.  He listed extremely prominent Muslim theologians who he said had endorsed calculation, including most notably Imam Shafi’i.

His chief requirements of such a calculation-based Islamic calendar were that “false positives” and “false negatives” contradictory to the physical sightings of the moon should be avoided or excluded.

To learn more, please visit  his website, goodsamt.com.

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ISNA Unites with Interfaith Leaders to Protect Federal Funding for Poverty Assistance Programs

July 14, 2011 – Representing a growing movement of Americans concerned that the Administration and Congress are enacting a budget deal that will place an undue burden on the poor “while shielding the wealthiest  from any additional sacrifice,” ISNA leadership and other leaders representing Christian and Jewish faiths today launched a new campaign to encourage policymakers to maintain a robust U.S. commitment to domestic and international poverty programs.

More than 25 heads of communion and national religious organizations are spearheading an 18-month faith-based public policy campaign to urge Congress and the Administration to exempt programs that assist at-risk families and children in the U.S. and abroad from budget cuts.  The campaign will consist of high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of religious leaders and daily prayer vigils among other actions.

The daily prayer vigils are being held on the front lawn of the United Methodist Building (100 Maryland Avenue, NE, Washington, DC) near the U.S. Capitol Building.  Led by a different religious organization each day at 12:30 p.m. EDT, the prayer vigils will continue throughout the White House led budget negotiations.  ISNA led a prayer vigil for the leaders on Tuesday, July 12.

More than 25 heads of communion and national religious organizations are spearheading an 18-month faith-based public policy campaign to urge Congress and the Administration to exempt programs that assist at-risk families and children in the U.S. and abroad from budget cuts.  The campaign will consist of high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of religious leaders and daily prayer vigils among other actions.

In their letters to President Obama and Congress, the religious leaders stated, “People who are served by government program – those who are poor, sick, and hungry, older adults, children, and people with disabilities – should not bear the brunt of the budget-cutting burden.”

They further explained that “Houses of worship and communities of faith cannot meet the current need, much less the increased hardship that would result from severe cuts in federal, and consequently, state programs.  We need the public-private partnership that has for decades enabled us as a nation to respond to desperate need, both human and environmental.”
During the briefing, Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, ISNA National Director of Interfaith and Community Alliances, spoke first about our responsibility to stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
He said, “It is our religious duty as part of the faith communities to convey our concerns about the problems of the budget cuts that will directly impact low income individuals and the dispossessed. We are asking for a budget that should be just and equitable.  It is our Islamic duty because this is one of the pillars of Islam.”

Christian, Jewish and Muslim institutions and faith-based organizations, united by shared beliefs to lift up the nation’s most vulnerable, are mobilizing across the country to impact the national budget dialogue by demonstrating that America is a better nation when we follow our faiths’ imperative to promote the general welfare of all individuals.

Contact: Adam Muhlendorf, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications adam@rabinowitz-dorf.com; (202) 265-3000

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ISNA Commends Efforts of Law Enforcement, Condemns Attempted Bombing at Times Square, and Lauds Alert Citizens

“(Plainfield, IN 05/04/2010) – The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) joins the Muslim American community and the rest of our fellow citizens in expressing its appreciation of the outstanding work done by the various law enforcement agencies in investigating and apprehending the alleged perpetrator(s) of the botched attack on New York and its residents.

“At the same time, ISNA condemns in the strongest terms the planned attack on innocent city-dwellers of every race and creed. The attack, described by the alleged sponsors as a sort of “pay-back” or “revenge”, is “inexcusable and without any justification in Islam or authentic Muslim tradition”, said Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of ISNA. “Even the murder of a single innocent person is abhorrent and in direct contradiction to the clear and unequivocal teachings of our faith (Quran Chapter 5,Verse 32), let alone the mass murder of unsuspecting innocent bystanders in a crowded square”, she added.

“ISNA is thankful to the vigilance of alert and loyal residents of New York city including Senegalese Muslim Aliou Niasse, who first noticed and pointed out the suspicious smoke coming from the vehicle, Lance Orton, who called the police, and Officers Wayne Rhatigan and Pam Duffy for acting swiftly and courageously to contain the damage and prevent the loss of life and limb of fellow Americans.

“ISNA asks Muslim Americans to stay true to their faith in rejecting any ideas or actions that tolerate or attempt to justify the use of terrorism for any purpose or by any group. ISNA also calls on them to stand with their fellow Americans in securing the homeland against any terrorist acts.”

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ISNA Condemns Gadahn’s Call for Mass Murder in America

Plainfield, IN – March 7, 2010) Adam Gadahn, a “spokesman” for Al-Qaeda today called for terrorist attacks on American targets, including “mass transportation systems.” 

In response, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, ISNA President issued the following statement:

“It is tragic that this American man has been brainwashed by Al-Qaeda to the point that he would consider the mass murder of innocent people to be in any way justified. Al-Qaeda is an organization whose doctrine and methods have been rejected by Muslim scholars across the world, as well as ordinary Muslim people who have suffered in great numbers from their vicious attacks in many countries.  Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization that follows the methodology of nationalist terrorist organizations and Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries, rejecting the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It is only by deviating from the limits set by God that Gadahn and his masters could justify killing children, babies, elderly women, the disabled, and other innocent people who would certainly die in an attack on an American mass transit system.”

“American Muslims, some of whom would most certainly also be killed in such an attack, as they were in the attacks of 9/11, reject al-Qaeda’s attempts to lure our young men and women to their revolutionary fantasies.  Islam requires that Muslims, including those who have volunteered to serve in the military, honor the trust that has been placed in them by their neighbors and fellow citizens.  The Holy Qur’an says, “O you who believe, be true to your covenants” (5:1) and “Do not let any people’s hatred of you lead you to deviate to injustice” (5:8).  Adam Gadahn and his masters have deviated from justice by calling for the indiscriminate murder of vast numbers of people on American soil.”

ISNA calls upon Muslim parents, teachers, leaders and Imams to take time to educate young people and their communities about the danger presented by the deviant teachings of al-Qaeda.

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‘Eidul Fitr 1430 – and warning

We will update this post as we learn of more country announcements of when ‘Eid will be.

UAE on 9/15/09 announced that ‘Eid would be Saturday, 9/19/09.

Saudi Arabia:  Unsure as of 9/18/09. 

Note:  In Saudi Arabia ‘Eidul Fitr and ‘Eidul Adha are each ten-day holidays, and typically Saudi Arabia reduces work hours during Ramadan to 6 hours per day.  Saudi weekends are Thursday and Friday.

Turkey:  Sunday 9/20/09 is ‘Eidul Fitr

FCNA/ISNA has announced ‘Eid will be Sunday, 9/20/09.

**Note that some non-Muslims are intentionally spreading viruses by making fake announcements about ‘Eidul Fitr—as soon as you open the web page your computer will be attacked. 

Do not open Eid announcement from www.patriceanderson.com.  Patrice Anderson appears to be from Houston, TX and runs a website that shows some expertise with web development, including apparently some knowledge of security which she is using to compromise the computers of Muslims in contravention of the law.  (“patrice.anderson: front-end web developer, sometimes designer and perpetual learner.”)  Will not give the live link to the page with the virus here.

We have notified authorities and are awaiting their response to this malicious act by Patrice Anderson.

 

clean print screen of virus from patrice anderson

Ramadan 1430, New Moon

new moon--not the Ramadan moon

The new moon for Ramadan 1430 comes in, according to www.nevis.columbia.edu, on Thursday August 20th, at 5:02 AM EST.  Therefore the Ramadan moon has already been born and whether one begins fasting depends on what method of determining the beginning of Ramadan one accepts, or which mosque or school of thought one follows, or for Shi’a it depends on which marja they follow.

By FCNA/ ISNA calculations, this new moon is impossible to spot in Mecca after sunset on Thursday, therefore although the new moon is in it is deemed by the reasoning of the Fiqh Council to bring in Ramadan the following evening.  Therefore FCNA will begin fasting on Saturday, tarawih prayers on Friday.  Many American mosques follow the influential ISNA / FCNA calculations. 

Other mosques follow ICNA, which has a different means of calculation.  Hamza Yusuf and Zaytuna insist on local physical sightings of the moon.  Many American mosques follow specific countries, without adhering to what other local mosques are doing. 

Saudi Arabia will fast Saturday, tarawih prayers beginning Friday. 

In the coming days insha`Allah we will report on when different communities began their fasting.

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The Tender Plants Of Our Society

By Sara Yousuf

483px-Handicap.svg July fourth, 2009. A Saturday at ISNA in Washington D.C. on an Independence Day morn. But not just any Saturday at the ISNA bazaar in Washington D.C., where my family and I manning a booth for HelpHandicap Foundation, a non-profit organization enabling people with disabilities in India. It was a Saturday that would mean so much to my family and I, and, I think, also to various Muslims with disabilities who would attend it and go home with a spark of hope amongst them.

It was the day the first panel discussion on disability would take place in ISNA history. There would be four speakers, one of whom would be my father, Mr. Mohammed Yousuf. Also featured would be, a psychiatric doctor, Mona Amer, who had done research on the inclusion of Muslims with disabilities, the general topic of the panel, the distinguished Imam Zaid Shakir, and Mr. Mobin Tawakkul, who had written with my father a chapter in a book about the lives of people with disabilities, along with Ms. Isra Bhatty, who would be serve as the moderator in the discussion.

My brothers, my mother, and I were really excited about the discussion. After handing out brochures all of Friday, and having trouble getting to sleep out of over-excitement, we were up in a flash Saturday morning. My mother and father had given me camera-duty. At first I thought, “Oh, what a snap this will be, only five-ten minutes here and there.” Later did my mother tell me that I had to videotape the entire discussion, which would last for two-hours plus, when I noticed that maybe my task would not be such a delicious piece of cake.

Well, my five- and nine-year-old brothers and I took our seats, three rows down from the stage. When asked why, I merely told the older of my brothers that though my hand may ache, I would not like to crane my neck. I turned on the camera before the panel started; in fact, I started it when I spotted my father talking to one of the speakers. Enjoying myself blissfully, I did not notice the time left on the camera before the memory was full.

The discussion started—finally! I thought. Of course, I couldn’t wait to hear my father speak, as I am sure neither could my brothers nor my mother. The first speaker was Dr. Mona Amer, and I really liked the way she started off. She asked the audience why most of them had come to the discussion: because they, someone they know, or someone in their family has a disability, knew a speaker in the discussion, were interested in the topic, or had just heard about the discussion; or because they were interested in the topic or had heard about the discussion.

Though I am not an adult, I wanted to be a part of the panel, too, so I raised my hands for the first two reasons. As I had predicted (I’ve always understood human feelings, and this I could feel in the crowd), most hands were in the air for the first reason: because they themselves had a disability or knew someone with a disability. From that moment, I was hooked in the discussion as I watched it through the screen of the camera.

Halfway through the doctor’s speech, my hand ached to be in another position. By this time I was so into the panel that I was only thinking, seeing, hearing the panel, and nothing else. Well, I did also notice my throbbing hand. For a second I thought, “Well, when you take pictures, you can turn the camera sideways and the pictures come out vertical.” Flipping the camera, I said to myself, “By the way, the video looks better vertical.” So I kept on switching the camera every five minutes or so.

Imam Zaid Shakir started his speech then, and he, along with the doctor before him, really started emphasizing and I really started to think, not just listen. Why was I here? Was I a part of this? How could I, an ordinary preteen from the mid-north of America, work towards the “inclusion of disability in North America”, when I was only a child? What could I do to change my corner of the universe? Now wait a minute……change the universe? Ha! That was long-term! How would I even begin to change the lives of those with disabilities? Moreover, what could I do? Could I, a single kid, amend the way the common society overlooks these people with disabilities???

I, an eleven-year-old, sat there amongst the couple hundred of people in Conference Room D in the Mount Vernon Place Convention Center, in Washington D.C., thinking.

Next, a video was to be played about the issue of including people with disabilities. I shut off the camera while watching, and I can tell you that though my brain was working, my face was totally frozen, struck by awe. In the movie, a part was entitled to the problems in the masjids in their local areas. One brother stated that yes; his masjid’s bathroom was made into an accessible bathroom for wheelchair use, but had been turned into a storage area for janitor supplies and boxes! To myself, I think: why is this happening, happening that the masjid’s handicap features are being changed?

It was like the video sent me flying. Thinking I began about everything in the video. How could I help? Donations? Articles? Words? Actions? HOW?!?! Answers I needed, not questions.

I turned the camera back on for my father’s speech. The projector screen displayed the image of cupped hands holding rich brown soil in which was growing a s mall, two-leafed, lime-green plant, about the size of your average thumb.

My father explains that those with a disability in our community are like this plant. Tender, small, totally dependant. It needs sunlight, water, and air.

Now I completely understand what my father means. Those hidden in our communities need sunlight—love and attention, water—knowledge to nourish them, and air—friends, people around them.

Who can give them these three necessities of basic living? Who? Who is responsible for this amongst us?  

Us.

We.

We are.

We are the ones responsible. We can change the way Muslims with disabilities are excluded in their local masjid and our societies. We can try to include them in every way possible. You’re the one who can change your corner of the universe. You, yes, you!

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ISNA Convention 2009

Rick Warren and Senior White House official visit 46th ISNA Convention

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An image from a parallel session of this year’s ISNA Convention, Turkish-American Muslims (TAM) — Status, Integration, and Future.

(Washington DC – July 6, 2009) – Valerie Jarrett was the keynote speaker on Friday at the inaugural session of the 46th Annual Convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).  Ms. Jarrett, who serves as a Senior Advisor and Assistant to President Obama for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, was introduced to the Convention’s participants by ISNA President Dr. Ingrid Mattson.

Citing President Obama’s Cairo Speech, Ms. Jarrett acknowledged the Contribution of American Muslims to the overall development of American society and the strengthening of American institutions. She commended ISNA for addressing many critical issues in the convention: “increasing civic engagement and interfaith cooperation, protecting the rights of the disabled and elderly, addressing domestic violence, improving education and health care, expanding renewable energy, and protecting the environment.”

Ms. Jarrett paid a tribute to the diligent work of Muslim Americans on behalf of the country.

“As this Convention demonstrates,” she noted, “ gone are the days of describing distinct sets of ‘Muslim issues’ and American issues.’ Your work here is crucial in confronting the challenges that all Americans are facing. And you help advance the new beginning between the United State and Muslim communities around the world that the President called for in Cairo.”

ISNA Convention attracted around 35,000 participants from around the country. The Convention featured 70 sessions, giving the participants the opportunities to address issues of Muslim and national concerns, plan future projects, and engage in interreligious and intergenerational discussions. In addition to Ms. Jarrett, guest speakers included the world-renowned Evangelical leader Pastor Rick Warren, and the popular singer Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens).

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