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Convention Gathers American Muslims

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Associated Press

Looking for a tape of Islamic rap music? Or maybe toothpaste and soap declared halal, permitted for use by Muslims because they contain no animal fat?

How about a video of Islamic cartoons, an Islamic road map to mosques throughout the United States, an alarm clock to wake you with a tinny “Allahu Akbar?”

It’s all available with much more Islamic paraphernalia, and a lot of Muslim pride, at a four-day convention where thousands of Muslims have gathered in this heartland city from all over the United States and Canada. They’re taking the opportunity not only to shop but also to show their enthusiasm for their religion, discuss problems common to Muslim Americans and demonstrate that they’re here to stay.

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“We are American Muslims,” said Jawaad Rahman, an organizer. “This is home, and we plan to make a constructive contribution and bring Islam to this country.”

The Islamic Society of North America’s 33rd convention in the United States, which began Friday, gives a snapshot of a Muslim community on the continent that Islamic leaders number at about 6 million.

The conventions have grown from meager gatherings of a few hundred to recent meetings drawing more than 10,000 Muslims a year.

One attraction of the convention is its bazaar, where vendors sell Islamic products that make the Muslim community less dependent on U.S. markets for food, literature and other Islamic goods.

The bazaar evokes the souks of the Middle East and Asia. The alarm clocks’ chants of “Allahu Akbar”--God is great--mingle with recitations from the Koran, Islam’s holy book, coming from CD-ROMs. War cries emanate from an animated video, “The Boy and the King,” which relates a Koranic story about a boy’s triumph over an infidel tyrant.

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