Washington, DC Hosts 2nd International Islamic Unity Conference

By A, Samia | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 3, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Washington, DC Hosts 2nd International Islamic Unity Conference

A, Samia, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Speakers from around the globe gathered at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC Aug. 7-9 to discuss Muslim issues at the 2nd International Islamic Unity Conference. Under the auspices of the Islamic Supreme Council of America and its founder, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, religious and political leaders alike gathered to address concerns facing the Islamic community and to condemn the oppression of Muslims worldwide.

In the opening session, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) addressed the lack of understanding of Islam in the United States. As he criticized the "unfair, ignorant image [of Muslims] presented in the media," McDermott urged audience members to contact their governmental representatives to express their concerns. He emphasized that the United States is neither a Christian nor Jewish nor Muslim nation, but rather a nation where people of all faiths can live together in religious freedom.

The conference expressed distress toward the atrocities committed against Muslims in Kosovo. In a panel on "The Balkan Crisis," Dr. Rexhep Boja, Grand Mufti of Kosovo, pleaded for the international community to recognize Kosovo's right to freedom. He noted that the 1989 collapse of Yugoslavia marked the beginning of the current crisis in Kosovo. After revoking the autonomy status previously enjoyed by Kosovo province, Serbian forces in Kosovo have closed schools, factories, and hospitals, denying members of the Albanian ethnic majority (which comprises 90 percent of Kosovo's population) needed services.

In the same panel, Shaykh Sulejman Rexhepi, Grand Mufti of Macedonia, expressed concern that the crisis in Kosovo may spread to Macedonia, which has a large Albanian ethnic minority, and other nearby states. He implored the United States to denounce Serbian aggression and crimes committed by the Serbian army. The panel's moderator, Bosnian Ambassador-at-Large Nedzib Sacirbey, ended the discussion with a general plea for peace and justice.

Muslims involved in the process of U.S. policymaking gathered for a panel entitled "How to Create Public Policy." Arshi Siddiqui, legislative aide to Congressman Xavier Becerra, stressed that Muslim Americans should not only form relationships with congressmen, but with congressional staff members as well.

Khalil Munir, executive director of Telecommunication Advocacy Projects who worked on Capitol Hill for 12 years, asserted that "policy is affected by ideology." Each member of Congress possesses core values which influence decision making, and it is important for constituents to be aware of their representatives' views. Munir supported coalitions as an important factor in policymaking.

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