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White House rep Karen Hughes: I found "new allies" at radical Islamist ISNA convention " to help educate America" about Muslims

September 22, 2005

MIM: For more on these see Dr. Daniel Pipes on " The Islamic Society of North America Baffles Washington".

Under secretary attends convention of Islamic Society of North America

Karen Hughes and ISNA vice president Ingrid Mattson
Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes, left, thanks ISNA vice president Ingrid Mattson at the Islamic Society of North America's annual convention, September 2, 2005. (©AP/WWP)

By Amina El-Bishlawy
Washington File Staff Writer

Chicago -- U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes has expressed the appreciation of the Bush administration for the demonstration of support for victims of Hurricane Katrina by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

"All people join me in saying that our hearts and prayers are with the people of Louisiana," Hughes said at a press conference September 2 to kick off ISNA's 42nd annual convention taking place in Chicago until September 5.

Hughes thanked ISNA for starting a special fund to help the victims of hurricane Katrina and making an initial donation of $20,000 from its own resources. After September 2 Friday prayers, ISNA announced that it had collected $2 million, with additional contributions expected.

"Muslim Americans must come forward and assist their fellow Americans in this time of need," said Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of ISNA.

collecting donations for Katrina victims
Muslims give donations for Katrina survivors after prayers in Paterson, New Jersey, September 2, 2005. (©AP/WWP)
ISNA called on mosques and congregations across North America to devote their sermons to the importance of helping the needy and to help raise funds during Friday prayers throughout the country.

The more than 30,000 Muslims attending this year's ISNA convention also said a special Islamic prayer –- Salat el Gha'eb, or prayer for the absent -- for Katrina's victims following the weekly Friday prayer.

Describing her meeting with Muslim leaders September 1, Hughes said that it was "a fascinating experience," which helped her to understand more about a number of things, from language, to public diplomacy outreach, to policy issues in "a very open and honest way."

ISNA was among 145 American-Muslim organizations and mosques that issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, in July condemning terrorism and extremism, Hughes noted. (See related article.)

The fatwa said that there is no justification in Islam for terrorism.

"The Muslim World and the entire world need to hear this," Hughes said.

The Fiqh Council of North America, a group of top Muslim-American scholars, issued the fatwa against terrorism and extremism on July 28. The fatwa said that suicide bombing or any other method of attack is haram -– forbidden -– and those who commit such barbaric acts are criminals, not martyrs.

Hughes said that words are important and added, "my job is to help amplify and magnify these voices."

"I think this is the beginning, I know that this is the beginning and I hope this is going to be the beginning of many productive conversations," Hughes said. She said she had another productive meeting with a group of Muslim students participating in the ISNA convention.

Responding to voices that have criticized her attendance at the ISNA convention, Hughes said that these criticisms show how much work needs to be done.

"I think that the key is to work together in ways that are respectful, we need to speak together and understand each other," she said.

Hughes also said that she could not imagine approaching the job of under secretary of state for public diplomacy, and seeking to reach out to the wider Muslim World, "without getting the advice, the opinion and the input of the American Muslim community."

"It's important that we talk to each other, but that doesn't mean that I agree with every thing you say or you agree with every thing I believe in," she said.

Hughes said the major pillars of the administration's outreach strategy are what she called the 4Es: "Engage, Exchange, Educate and Empower."

Hughes said the message she will take from the ISNA convention is "Educate America."

"I found new allies to help me do my job," she added.

ISNA is an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, and developing educational, social and outreach programs.

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at