National Muslim youth group to gather in Chester County

Posted: September 06, 2014

A national Muslim youth group will hold its 45th annual retreat this weekend, bringing together more than 1,200 men and boys from around the country to Chester County with the goal of strengthening a sense of community and identity among young Muslims.

"They're not anything like the type of Muslims we hear about on television and the radio," said Bilal Rana, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association.

The organization, which has 71 local chapters and more than 3,000 members, is part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Ahmadi Muslims are persecuted in some Muslim countries because of differences in beliefs.

The youth association is analogous to the Boy Scouts of America or the YMCA, Rana said. Members organize community service projects and emphasize good citizenship.

The group also spreads awareness about Islam and offers moral and spiritual training to members.

The association chose to hold its retreat in a suburb of Philadelphia so it could use the "City of Brotherly Love" moniker to emphasize its own message of love, Rana said.

The retreat will start Friday afternoon at Camp Saginaw in Oxford.

Members of the organization, who range in age from 7 to 40, will exchange ideas and network with other members. They will also compete to recite verses of the Quran, the Islamic holy book.

Workshops will include suggestions on how to deal with such offers as beer or pepperoni pizza. Muslims cannot have alcohol or pork. Retreat participants also will compete in basketball, volleyball, and table tennis.

Ahmad Chaudhry, the association's assistant president, called Muslim youths one of the most misunderstood groups in the country because of negative portrayals of Muslims in the media.

"As American Muslim youth, especially, we need to show our fellow Americans what the true face of Islam is," he said.

In a written message to the association, Gov. Corbett welcomed everyone coming for the retreat.

"I commend all those associated with this organization for their compassion, stewardship and commitment to improving the quality of life for their fellow citizens," Corbett said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts (R., Pa.) gave a certificate of recognition to the association in honor of its 75th anniversary.

U.S. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) is scheduled to give a video message.

"He will thank them for speaking out against terrorism and being a positive force within the New York and Long Island community," Kevin Fogarty, King's spokesman, said in an e-mail.

"Islam is not a terrorist religion," said Madeel Abdullah, president of the association's Eastern Pennsylvania region, which includes chapters in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and the Lehigh Valley.

Last year's retreat, in Edison, N.J., drew 1,240 people. Past retreat locations have included Pittsburgh, upstate New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee.


BY THE NUMBERS

1939

AMYA was founded.

3,000

members in AMYA.

71

local chapters in AMYA.

85

members in the Philadelphia chapter.


 

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