WASHINGTON - Stereotypes and challenges facing the Muslim minority in North America have dominated an annual Muslim convention, with participants underlining the importance of promoting harmony between followers of different faiths.
The North American Muslim community is thriving, probably more so than any other place in the world, Pakistani ambassador Sherry Rehman told the e 49th annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention.
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 was quoted as saying by Dawn News.
Themed One Nation Under God: Striving for the Common Good, the annual convention lured thousands of Muslims from North America and around the world.
Held so close to the US presidential election in November, the convention focused on the civic engagement of Muslims and ways to empower Muslims' role in the vote.
Speakers also underlined the importance of promoting interfaith harmony.
Focusing on common misconceptions about Islam, Rehman said 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.
The diplomat stressed that 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.
ISNA is the largest Muslim umbrella organization in North America.
ISNA's four-day 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.
Over the years, the convention has increased in popularity and consistently draws crowds of up to 40,000 Muslims in attendance each year.
US 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.
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.
The US official admitted 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.
We also have a message for those who tell Muslims to go home, this is their home, the United States of America,' he added.
Recently, the department settled a suit in New York City, forcing the employers to provide equal opportunities to US Muslims.
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.