By Esra Kaymak Avci
BALTIMORE, United States (AA) – Tens of thousands of Muslims from across the U.S. gathered Saturday for the largest gathering of American Muslims, the 41st Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)-Muslim American Society (MAS) convention in Baltimore, Maryland, some 65 kilometers (41 miles) from Washington, D.C.
During the convention, which runs May 28-30 and this year honors the Muslim holy Quran, The Divine Guidance, speakers from across the world delivered lectures to provide a better understanding of the holy scripture.
The event’s organizers said they expect attendance to jump at least 30 percent this year, to 26,000 or more, reported The Baltimore Sun.
Speaking at the convention’s opening, ICNA President Naeem Baig said this year they chose the theme of the Quran so as to explore the beauties of the holy book while dispelling the misinterpretations of the Islamic faith and Muslims in the U.S. mainstream media and the rhetoric used by some politicians.
“We feel our duty as Muslim Americans [is] to talk about our faith, to talk about our being, to talk about the book of Allah,” Baig said.
“It is our belief that this book is divine and that it has the answers to everything that we face in our lives.”
Taking the stage after Baig, Nadeem Siddiqi, chairman of the Muslim American Society Board of Trustees, told the audience that the holy book is aimed at society growing as a whole and becoming fruitful for everyone.
Such an “awakening” in society doesn’t happen overnight, Siddiqi stated, adding that every Muslim has to take the individual responsibility to help make it happen.
“We have to take our own initiative,” he said, as applying the Quran in our lives can change the status quo and stem the problems we face.
Oussama Jammal, secretary general of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, said that now is the time for American Muslims to unite against the growing threat of Islamophobia.
Citing the example of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who notoriously called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., Jammal urged the Muslim-American community to raise its voice against such Islamophobic rhetoric.
At the event, Anadolu Agency also opened a stand in the convention area to launch a new package focused solely on the Islamic world.
The Anadolu World Report News Package will deliver political, economic, cultural, and social news to its subscribers in English, Arabic, and Turkish.
Subscribers will be able to easily follow critical breaking news in the Islamic world, watch live broadcasts, track event calendars, and have access to exclusive interviews with Muslim leaders conducted by the agency’s extensive global network of journalists.
In addition to analytical reports, a constantly updated searchable and indexed photography catalogue and collections will also be available, enabling subscribers to view images related to important programs and dates in the Islamic world and watch videos.
Topics set to be addressed during the three-day Baltimore convention include the challenges of Muslims living in North America, Islamophobia and discrimination, and how to deal with problems Muslims face on a daily basis.
The ICNA-MAS annual convention is one of the largest gatherings of American Muslims in the U.S. This is the third consecutive year it has been held in Baltimore.