A woman wearing a burqa sat on a bench Saturday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, the fabric across her face revealing only her eyes.

Next to her, a group of children chatted on cellphones and shrieked merrily over the sound of chanting music calling the assembled masses to prayers.

At the annual Islamic Circle of North America Convention, the traditional mixes easily with the modern.

“We’re just like anyone else, and I think people have a hard time understanding that,” said Sakina Abduss-Salaam, a New Jersey woman who strolled through the convention Saturday wearing a black-and-gold Islamic hijab dress and holding a Starbucks iced coffee.

Abduss-Salaam said she converted to Islam 18 years ago when she met her husband, a Muslim. She said the religion has shaped her life as she and her husband have raised two children and held full-time jobs in a society that sometimes views Muslims with distrust.

“It’s not about terrorism or hatred. It’s about love,” she said. “Being a Muslim is just like being a Christian or a Jewish person. We are all called to treat each other with respect.”

The convention, which has taken place in Hartford for the last four years, is expected to draw more than 15,000 people by the time it winds down later today, said Muhammad Rahman, the convention’s co-chairman.

He said most of those who have shown up this weekend are Muslims from the East Coast stretching from New England to the Carolinas, though many have traveled from Canada and Texas and other far-off points.

“It’s become a very popular family event and that’s what we intended,” Rahman said. “We want to educate our young people about the true meaning of Islam, as well as help overcome a lot of misperceptions on the part of non-Muslims.” (MORE)


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