SHAFAQNA – Nearly 25,000 people, including Ismael Essa, gathered at the Baltimore Convention Center Saturday for a three-day conference.
“It’s a lot of speakers and I can get some knowledge from great scholars all over the U.S., and to be good examples for Muslims, especially with these circumstances around the world and in the U.S., and to represent Islam in a good way,” Essa said.
Organizers of the ‘Islamic Circle of North America Convention want to dispel myths about the Islamic faith.
“Islam encourages us to work for justice in the society, but what extremists are doing goes directly against the principals of Islam,” said Naeem Baig, president of ICNA.
According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims are the fastest growing religious group in the world, next to Christianity. There were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world in 2010.
“I can tell you that ISIS does not even represent one percent of them,” Baig said.
Baig says his community is working against violence and extremism.
“When people see the images coming from Syria or from Iraq or from other places of dead children it affects us all. If you’re Muslim, not Muslim, doesn’t really matter. Violence is something that as human beings, we despise violence,” Baig said.
A recent report by the Program of Extremism at George Washington University reveals there are about 900 investigations against ISIS sympathizers in the U.S. A large majority are American citizens. Researchers say ISIS has been using social media sites like Twitter to recruit and radicalize them, in order to get them to carry out attacks.
“Our message to our Muslim community is that if there is any kind of extremist thought anywhere, challenge that and help them understand what real Islam is,” Baig said.
“Islam is very old and historic religion. Its scripture is much like the scripture in other major religions is all about preaching tolerance in places. It also is a little harsher in other places, but we should acknowledge that all these religions have moments like that, said Chris Canary, a history teacher from Philadelphia who was visiting Baltimore.
“The major message of Islam, is the peace and mercy to all mankind,” Essa said.
The ICNA convention will continue through Monday.