Muslim convention in Rosemont promotes civic, interfaith engagement
As the largest Islamic convention in the nation continues in Rosemont, suburban Muslims are coming together to emphasize two approaches to address the challenges their community faces.
Forging interfaith partnerships and promoting civic engagement are the strongest ways to counter the Islamophobia that is causing stress, depression and identity crises for many Muslims -- especially youth, said Tabassum Haleem, executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.
"The rhetoric that's out there -- it's just too personal and it's just too hurtful," Haleem said. "I've heard that cases of depression have increased, and when that happens there's more unrest within families -- even relationships -- places where you're supposed to feel safe. You bring those stresses home and that's where you feel it."
Haleem said she kicked off her time at the 53rd annual Islamic Society of North America convention Friday with small group meetings with leaders including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, and Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Gold Star parents who rose to the national stage after Khizr's speech at the Democratic National Convention in July.
Haleem said Chicago-area Muslim leaders want to protect themselves -- and their children -- from the social and personal effects of having their religious identity questioned or insulted. Forging strong, communal, interfaith relations is one way to do that.
Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America, said thousands of convention attendees converge to discuss these topics together and emerge empowered to make a difference. He encouraged about 750 people at a community recognition luncheon Saturday never to doubt the power of prayer and to be sure to use their political voice.
The society does not endorse candidates, but says Muslims know exactly who to vote for to "come together and heal and reconcile the challenges we're facing."
Despite such weighty topics, the large-scale convention also offers ways to keep it light.
A sprawling bazaar shows off vendors selling books, investment resources, homemade honey, clothing and paintings. A basketball tournament for boys and girls concludes Sunday. A women-only fashion show on Saturday displayed new styles. A health fair and a job fair offer resources.
The event at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center concludes Monday.