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Islamic Convention In Hartford Focuses On Fight Against Islamophobia


May 26, 2012

HARTFORD— — Waterbury's Muslim population has "exploded" in the past 10 years, according to Naveed Khan, who worships with about 500 other people at the Islamic American Society of Connecticut.

The society's new home, under construction on Schraffts Drive in Waterbury, would be state's largest mosque, he said.

The community is "a mix," Khan, originally of Pakistan, said of the ethnically diverse group of people with roots in a host of counties, including Bosnia, Albania and Macedonia.

Kahn was one of an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people, according to organizers, who came to the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford on Saturday for the annual three-day conference hosted by the Islamic Circle of North America.

The national advocacy group has a dual mission of defending religious freedom and combating anti-Islamic bigotry it refers to as "Islamophobia," the conference organizers said.

The conference was intended to provide Muslims with an opportunity to observe Shariah — the legal component of Islamic — and to provide a forum for people to learn about a religion organizers say is poorly misrepresented in the media.

"I wish I had a [television] channel where I can teach non-Muslims what Muslims are about," said Kahn, who lives in Waterbury. "Since9/11, now we realize we need to do more. We have to market ourselves."

Observing the law, most women wore hijabs to cover their hair. Men, women and children strolled the convention center, where vendors sold Islamic knickknacks, books and garb; businesses advertised religious-based financial and legal services; and visitors took part in workshops and discussions on topics ranging from "Anti-Islamic Bigotry" to "Oppression of Women."

Rooms at the convention center and at partnering hotels were open for all day prayer, and separate workshops were set up for young people.

"This is a very wholesome family environment," said Naeem Baig, executive director for the Islamic group's council for social justice.

The conference is primarily meant to teach Muslims themselves about Shariah. It's been held in Hartford for the past seven years and attracts Muslims from across the Northeast. It is open to the public through Monday.

Abu Anah Zahidh said he hasn't found a religious community to connect with after moving to Hartford seven months ago. But he said he felt connected to a "brotherhood" after leaving the event with a stack of brochures.

"People have to get to know Muslims," said Zahidh, who was born in Sri Lanka. "We are here. And we're integrated and loyal."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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