ICNA Raises $150,000 at Annual Supporters Dinner
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Bay Area held its Annual Supporters Dinner on December 9, 2012 at the Santa Clara Marriot Hotel and successfully raised $150,000 for its various projects. “Defending Religious Freedom – Understanding Sharia” was the theme of the dinner which attracted more than 500 people.

John L. Esposito, Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, was the keynote speaker. He was of the view that the Muslim community in America has an education level at par with the Jewish community but it lacks in spending money to counter its negative image. He praised the work of ICNA and urged the audience to support its mission.

ICNA, a leading grassroots organization, among other projects, has a regular feed-the-hungry drive which is organized by its dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers on the last Saturday of every month. It serves the most basic needs for the homeless and needy communities in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.

Imam Zaid Salim Shakir, an Islamic scholar and writer and co-founder (with Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Dr. Hatem Bazian) of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, was among the other speakers at the dinner. He warned the audience about the fallout of the so-called anti-Sharia bills in more than 20 US States. He said millions of dollars are being spent by the anti-Muslim lobby on the anti-Sharia bills which should be countered by the Muslim Community by supporting Muslim civil advocacy groups like ICNA.

It may be recalled that a 2010 report by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies shows that Americans are more prejudiced toward Islam than any other religion.  The study, entitled “Religious Perceptions in America: With an In-Depth Analysis of US Attitudes Toward Muslims and Islam,” shows that, more than 4 in 10 Americans (43%) admit to feeling at least “a little” prejudice toward Muslims. This is more than twice the number who say the same about Christians (18%), and almost three times more than that of Jews (15%) and Buddhists (14%).  The poll questioned Americans about knowledge of Islam, to which 63 percent said they have “very little” or “none at all.”

Imam Alaeddin ElBekri of the Saratoga Islamic Center and Imam Anwar Tahir also stressed the need for supporting Muslim civic advocacy groups like ICNA to counter anti-Islam and anti-Muslim propaganda and negative image of Islam and Muslims.

Haleema, a student of West Valley College, Saratoga related her story of embracing Islam by learning about the faith through ICNA’s website Why Islam ( www.whyislam.org ). She said that the website provided extensive information about Islam which helped her to understand this faith. Haleema said that her mother and her younger brother followed her in embracing Islam.

ICNA has launched The WhyIslam project to remove misconceptions about Islam and promote a true and fair understanding of Islam among the fellow Americans.

As part of the project ICNA volunteers organize booths at shopping malls, BART stations, fairs, flea markets, festivals, farmers' markets; radio, bus and subway ad campaigns and hosting of billboards, among other activities, to create awareness, understanding and tolerance for Islam. They have distributed more than 5,000 copies of the Holy Qur’an and more than 40,000 brochures on various topics, this year. A billboard campaign was launched for 5 months.

Ameen Ashraf, President, ICNA Bay Area, gave a presentation on his organization’s activities. ICNA Relief is the nation’s biggest domestic Muslim relief agency, providing disaster relief services, shelter homes, medical clinics and family counseling services to those in need.

As part of ICNA Relief, dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers organize regular “Feed the Hungry” programs  and  provide  other  social services to the needy members of our community. Over 58,000 meals and thousands of winter clothing and hygiene kits have been served to the underprivileged and homeless people in the Bay Area since 2007. ICNA has also helped hundreds of Muslim families facing hard times through financial aid covering rent, utility bills, burial expenses and transportation.

Saad Quraishi, Director of Dawah, ICNA Bay Area, was the MC of the program. ICNA took the opportunity to honor Zahra Billoo, Sadaf Possani, Zafar Ullah, Aman Ashraf and Tahmina Hossain for their distinguished services for the Muslim community. ICNA also recognized Dr. John L. Esposito with a plaque.


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