By GENENE SALMAN, Staff Writer
ANAHEIM, Calif. – An airport employee accidentally became Muslim after reading an Islamic book left behind by a traveler.
This was just one of the stories Siraj Wahaj, Imam at Al Taqwa Mosque in New York, shared at the WhyIslam Banquet underscoring the need for "da’wah," or educating others about Islam.
More than 300 people attended the half-day event at the Brookhurst Community Center for a day filled with talks, workshops and fund raising to support and learn from WhyIslam’s efforts.
In its three years of existence, WhyIslam, a project of the Islamic
Circle of North America, has held workshops about Islam, distributed
da’wah brochures, put up billboards, sent welcome packages to new
Muslims and supported new Muslims by providing mentors.
Five thousand people have embraced Islam through the organization.
In an interactive presentation, speaker Hussam Ayloush, executive
director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, passed the
microphone around to audience members asking them to share stories of
how they have educated others about Islam.
One man said he had a conversation with a woman on a plane whose interest in Islam increased during the short flight.
Ayloush pointed out that recent polls show that one out of four
Americans have a negative perception of Islam. It is likely, he said,
that those one out of four people don’t know any Muslims. To counter
the trend, he invited the audience to speak to at least 10 non-Muslims
about Islam during the year.
Imam Shabbir Aly, president of the Islamic Information and Dawa Centre
International from Toronto, Canada, urged the audience to take
individual responsibility in the propagation of Islam. "Perform a
random act of kindness. … Become the blazing lamp," he said.
Speaker Ahmed Sakr, director of the Islamic Education Center in Walnut,
Calif., reminded the audience of the importance of "teaching, not
preaching." He also stressed that Muslims cannot and should not be
isolationists as members of the society.
About $50,000 were raised for WhyIslam’s work.