- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 31, 2002

Islamic leaders opened their largest convention of the year yesterday in the District by denouncing the September 11 attacks, but saying Muslims have suffered as much as the country as a whole.

"September 11 was much more painful for us as Muslims because our nose was dragged into the tragedy," Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, said in his opening remarks from a stage graced with American flags at the Washington Convention Center.

This is the first year the conference has been held in Washington, he noted, before offering a multidenominational prayer for the victims of September 11.

Up to 35,000 Muslims from the United States and Canada are expected to attend the 39th annual conference, which ends tomorrow, with a theme centering around the post-September 11 world.

The opening session started with a reading from the Koran, which asked the people of Islam to "stand firm for Allah" and "let not the hatred of others make you deviate from justice."

Khadija Abdullah of Los Angeles ended the prayer that followed by asking Muslims to "answer scapegoating and hatred" with love.

More than 3,000 people lost their lives last year when Islamic extremists crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

Since September 11, U.S. law enforcement agencies have arrested dozens of Muslim activists, six of whom were indicted this week on charges of conspiracy.

Federal law enforcement agencies also have shut down several Islamic nonprofit agencies across the country, claiming they were fronts for terrorist activities.

Several speakers reiterated statements released after September 11 condemning the attacks.

Elsayed Orady, president of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, called September 11 a "personal tragedy for all of us" and denounced "profiling of Muslims."

The society, which lists $2.6 million in assets, is an association of several Islamic organizations in the United States and Canada.

"Last year was very hard on us as a community and on all Americans," said Muhammad Nur Abdullah, president of the society. "It is now our task to stand up for justice and to practice Islam, not to hide."

Booths staffed by several activist groups lined the walls of the convention center lobby. Several of the anti-Israel handouts condemned U.S. funding of Israel.

A booth operated by the Council on American-Islamic Relations provided a free pocket guide called "Know Your Rights," which contains information on what to do if contacted by the FBI. "You do not have to talk to the FBI," the text informs.

It also lists phone numbers for the aggrieved to call, including 16 numbers of corporate media groups.

The conference agenda includes panel discussions on the attacks, including today's sessions titled "Jihad/Terrorism" and "Effect of 9-11 on Muslim Civil Liberties in America."

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