Muslim leaders in US meet to discuss political future

The logo for the American Muslim Alliance convention is the Islamic crescent and star combined with the Stars and Stripes - two identities the group's leaders want to fuse into a unified force.

The alliance is one of the few national Muslim political groups in the country, and the first to meet since the Sept. 11 attacks. Participants at Saturday's convention said Muslims - numbering 6 million in the United States - are now in the spotlight.

"Those days are gone when we are just symbolic spectators," said Zahid Bukhari, director of Muslims in the American Public Square, a research project at Georgetown University in Washington. He said Muslims should seize the opportunity to become more involved in their communities.

"Strive from the PTA up to Pennsylvania Avenue," he told an audience of about 150. "Take part in ... community organizations."

The convention opened with a moment of silence to honor the victims in New York and Washington, and echoes of the attacks were everywhere. Two private security guards and four police officers patrolled the hotel.

Leaders of the Fremont, Calif.-based organization hoped to discuss ways to counter prejudice against Muslims and become politically involved. They also hoped to move their diverse group toward a unified agenda. Some say there is common ground, citing protection of civil rights, opposition to sanctions against Iraq, and persuading the US to give more attention to the plight of Palestinians.

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