Muslims gather at the largest Islamic convention in North America

If Muslims want to improve their image America, they have to get involved in their communities and proactively talk Islam before controversies arise, leading Muslim figures told 40,000 people gathered at the continent’s largest Islamic convention this weekend.

The message, echoed among dozens of panels and discussion groups at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual meeting in suburban Chicago comes after a difficult year for American Muslims. Several states have passed or proposed bans of Islamic law, mosque construction projects have met ferocious opposition and polls have shown that many Americans have a negative perception of the religion.

Panels carried titles such as “Muslims Under a Microscope,” “Anti-Sharia Initiatives: How to Respond” and “Not in My Backyard,” regarding to anti-mosque construction campaigns. The sessions at ISNA, which were based upon the requests of members, indicated that Muslims are also concerned about the state of their religion as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches.

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Tennessee politician’s remarks on Islam raise uproar

Comments by Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey suggesting that Islam might be a cult and that Muslims might not qualify for constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms drew criticism from Islamic groups Tuesday and an eruption of national media attention.

Ramsey, a Republican candidate for governor, said at a mid-July campaign event in Chattanooga that he is “all about freedom of religion,” which is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

“But you cross the line when they start trying to bring Sharia law into the United States,” he said. “Now you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it? We do protect our religions, but at the same time, this is something that we are going to have to face.”

There are approximately 1.2 billion Muslims in the world and 7 million in the United States, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Ibrahim Hooper, that organization’s national communications director, called Ramsey’s comments “part of an unfortunate trend in our society.”

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