WASHINGTON - Major interfaith leaders and government officials have come together in Washington this weekend to address civil rights challenges faced by Muslims in the US and underline the importance of interfaith harmony.
The North American Muslim community is thriving, probably more so than any other place in the world, said Pakistan's ambassador, Sherry Rehman, while addressing the 49th annual Islamic Society of North America convention, Dawn reported on Sunday, Sept. 2.
They are turning negative stereotypes on their heads through their eagerness to participate; to become engaged citizens in North American society, economically, socially and politically, she said.
Tens of thousands of Muslims from around the United States gathered in Washington this weekend for the 49th annual ISNA convention, One Nation Under God: Striving for the Common Good.
Held so close to the US presidential election, scheduled on Nov. 6, the convention focused on Muslims' civic engagement, urging Muslims to participate in the elections.
Speakers also underlined the importance of interfaith harmony, both for Muslims in America and for minorities in Muslim majority countries.
Thomas Perez, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gen. for Civil Rights, ISNA President Mohamed Magid, Prof. Sherman Jackson, and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf will focus their remarks on the conference theme.
Rabbi David Saperstein of the Union for Reform Judaism, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Congressman Keith Ellison, and Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners urged all faith-based communities to address issues of common concern, such as poverty, discrimination, and human rights abuses.
Focusing on common misconceptions about Islam, Ambassador Rehman noted that the active Muslim Community of North America is living proof that misconceptions are easily shattered.
Islam includes members of every race, ethnicity, and nation on every inhabited continent on earth, she said.
North America is a living example of Islam's international reach, as well as its complexity and diversity.
"The ethnic makeup of the community mirrors the plural nature of American society, with believers from across the racial, cultural, and economic spectrum," she said.
"Despite our diverse backgrounds, both here and abroad, the differences are not nearly as strong as the principles that unite us.
Getting Muslims complaints about facing discrimination in workplace and kids at school, Assistant Attorney General Perez acknowledged that since 9/11, discrimination against Muslims had become more mainstream.
People should never be forced to choose between their jobs and their faiths, Perez said.
We will also continue to fight bullying of Muslim kids in schools.
We also have a message for those who tell Muslims to go home, this is their home, the United States of America,' he added.
Perez referred to Muslim concerns about repeated arson attacks on and protests against mosques, burning of holy books and refusing building permits to Islamic centers.
He added that there were also discrimination against Muslims in work places and Muslim kids at schools.
Acknowledging that employment discrimination against Muslims had become a huge problem, Perez said the Department of Justice was determined to overcome this problem.
Recently, the department settled a suit in New York City, forcing the employers to provide equal opportunities to Muslim Americans.
He promised to face any anti-Muslim material in FBI and a DOJ training facilities and ensured that we do not repeat these mistakes.
Perez also pledged to use every tool at our disposal to ensure equal opportunities for all Muslims living in America.
Since the 9/11 attacks on their country, US Muslims, estimated by 7-8 million, have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California said that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
According to federal data, a record number of Muslim workers are complaining from facing employment discrimination, with Muslims making up one-quarter of the 3,386 religious discrimination claims filed with the EEOC last year.
The US Senate Office Of Research has said that Muslims and Arabs have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Amnesty International also repeatedly said that racial profiling by US law enforcement agencies had grown dramatically in the wake of the attacks.
According to an FBI report last November, hate crimes against Muslims increased nearly 50 percent in the United States in 2010.
Some analysts refer those attacks to a growing sense of discomfort with Muslims that was basically triggered by Republican presidential campaigns over the past months.