Patrick to host first-ever Muslim forum

By Martin Finucane
Globe Staff / May 22, 2010

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Governor Deval Patrick is scheduled to host a forum today in Boston with hundreds of members of the Muslim-American community in what organizers said is a first-of-its-kind meeting.

The event, expected to draw 1,000 people, begins at 4 p.m. at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury.

Bilal Kaleem, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Boston, said his group organized the event with the Islamic Council of New England and 25 other Muslim institutions and mosques. Organizers want to engage the Muslim-American community in the civic and political process, he said.

“What we’re looking to do is, through civic engagement, bring the talents of the Muslim community to bear,’’ Kaleem said.

Patrick, who is running for reelection this year, is “governor of the whole state and all people,’’ said spokeswoman Kim Haberlin, pointing out that he has held other events with Jewish and Christian leaders.

Today’s event comes at the end of a three-monthcivic engagement campaign, Kaleem said. After more than 15 community meetings surveying more than 500 Muslims, activists said they found that the community’s concerns included the treatment of Muslims by law enforcement and a lack of awareness of Muslim culture in schools.

He said it is important to get the Muslim community engaged, because members could become alienated and marginalized and targeted by those who want to radicalize their thinking.

“If you provide them a very powerful example of being able to make change and get empowered through the civic process, that’s a much more powerful vision,’’ he said.

A January report by professors at Duke and the University of North Carolina found that homegrown terrorism by Muslim-Americans was “a serious, but limited problem,’’ and suggested, among other things, political engagement as a way to prevent radicalization.

In the most recent case of home-grown terrorism, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born naturalized citizen, is accused of attempting to ignite a car bomb in New York’s Times Square on May 1. Three men were arrested in New England last week as part of the probe into the case.

Martin Finucane can be reached at

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