A new national Muslim organization based in Sunnyside has been founded to represent "mainstream Islam" in North America and is hoping to attract members of the faith from all ethnic backgrounds, especially native-born Americans.
The Association of Muslims of North America held its inaugural gathering at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomfield earlier this month. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) joined in unveiling the official logo.
In the works is a "Peace for Humanity" conference scheduled for 3 June 2012at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, with an expected attendance of about 20,000 people. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, author of the "Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings." The group also plans to have clergy from Jewish, Christian and other religions speak and attend the interfaith conference.
The non-profit plans to open chapters and affiliates in major cities across the U.S. and Canada. Dr. Abdul Rehman, an internist originally from Kashmir/Pakistan, who has lived on Staten Island since 1972, is chairman of the group's founding committee and the organization is currently based at his Sunnyside office.
Chapters are being formed by board members who live in Los Angeles, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Houston, Texas; and Canada. The website is Amnai.org.
The association describes itself as a "grassroots religious, social and educational organization that is to represent Mainstream Islam and be the voice of the silent majority of Muslims of North America."
Promoting "friendship and peaceful co-existence" among people of different faiths, the group also is intended to assist Muslim immigrants in their efforts to "integrate and become an active part" of American society.
"We are as American as you or anybody else, we are a nation of immigrants," said Imam Ghulam Rasul of Masjid al-Noor in Concord, who is a member of the association.
"I believe in the American system and American values."
Staten Island is home to many Muslims who were born in this country, are working hard to support their families, are patriotic and vehemently opposed to terrorism, Dr. Rehman said.
"We condemn human killing and promote the peacefulness of Islam as it is commanded by Islam, practiced by the prophet Muhammad and Muslims for the last 14 centuries," Imam Rasul said.
As part of the studies at Masjid al-Noor, members of all ages read "Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings," which was published by Minhaj-ul-Quran Educational and Cultural Center of Hackensack, N.J., a sister organization of Masjid Al Noor.
"The territorial conflicts in the Middle East have created so much misunderstanding and conflict," said Dr. Rehman, who a member of Masjid Al-Noor.
Islam is a peaceful religion that doesn't encourage or condone violence, Dr. Rehman stressed.
"It is our responsibility as the American Muslim community to present the true picture of Islam and to counter the wave of Islamophobia is on the rise in this post-September 11th environment," Dr. Rehman said.
"Before 9/11, people were more relaxed," Imam Rasul said. "After 9/11, people are to a degree suspicious."
However, the imam stressed the mosque has a good relationship with its neighbors in Concord and that members are treated well by most Islanders.
"When people know you personally they are as nice to you as always," the imam said.
Dr. Rehman said many American Muslims didn't speak out against the 9/11 terrorist attacks because they were afraid of retribution as anti-Islamic sentiment swept the nation.
"Many Muslims decided to stay quiet and stay under the radar," he said.
With more than a decade having passed since the 9/11 attacks, members of the association think it's time to educate the public about the real Islam.
The group also intends to guide and educate American Muslim youth "so that they do not fall prey to the propaganda of hatred that is so rampant on web," Dr. Rehman said.
Source: Maura Grunlund, "Staten Island-based Muslim group hopes to represent 'mainstream Islam' in North America" Staten Island Advance February 20, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today