Muslim Group Focuses on Civic Involvement

August 31, 2007

Author: Manya A. Brachear

Source: Chicago Tribune,0,5786990.story

"Get Out the Vote" is so 2006. Or as Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, prefers to say: It's kindergarten.

The recently elected congressman will say as much when he addresses the 30,000 members of the Islamic Society of North America at its annual convention in Rosemont this weekend.

"My message is going to be simple: A higher level of civic engagement is not only good for Muslim-Americans but to Americans in general," he said in an interview Thursday. "Home is not where your grandparents are buried but where your children are born. Muslim-Americans, a majority of which were born in another country, should start looking at America as their very own country. They really need to invest and feel a part of America."

For decades, the Islamic Society of North America has convened Labor Day weekend to offer a spiritual refresher for members who feel isolated in their small communities or worn down by indignities both real and perceived.

But looking ahead to a national election in which conversations about religion have already played a prominent role, this year's convention features a series of seminars to show members how to shake off the stereotypes that marginalize them and to demonstrate that pushing for change is an authentic act of faith for Muslims.