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IA: Islam Growing in Central Iowa

Des Moines - Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States.Here in Iowa, it seems to be no different, and there are few reasons why so many Iowans are connecting with this faith. The Islamic Center of Des Moines is one of three Muslim mosques in the metro, so it may suprise you that an estimated twelve thousand Muslims live in the metro area.One of the most well-known of them is Ako Abdul-Samad.He's says people moving into Iowa are helping the religion grow."You have a large Bosnian population, about fifteen thousand in Des Moines.Ninety-nine percent of them are Muslim." In fact, the Bosnian community just purchased a former day care center to build a new mosque to accommodate all the growth, and the very first Islamic grade school opened its doors in Des Moines this year.Some native Iowans are also converting to the faith.

After 9-11, Ako says people living in Des Moines seemed to become more educated about Islam.He believes they learned it is a religion of peace."When people saw that, we started getting converts left and right.People were saying, 'I like what I hear.'" In the future, Ako expects more people will want to take a closer look at Islam, and he thinks Des Moines, a mostly Christian town, will accept that. A Muslim from Sioux City is running for Governor this year, and the Islamic Center of Des Moines plans to expand its grade school next year.


Charges Filed in AIPAC Scandal

WASHINGTON, May 4 - Federal agents arrested a Pentagon analyst on Wednesday, accusing him of illegally disclosing highly classified information about possible attacks on American forces in Iraq to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group. The analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, turned himself in to the authorities on Wednesday morning in a case that has stirred unusually anxious debate in influential political circles in the capital even though it has focused on a midlevel Pentagon employee. The inquiry has cast a cloud over the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which employed the two men who are said to have received the classified information from Mr. Franklin. The group, also known as Aipac, has close ties to senior policymakers in the Bush administration, among them Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to appear later this month at the group's annual meeting.

The investigation has proven awkward as well for a group of conservative Republicans, who held high-level civilian jobs at the Pentagon during President Bush's first term and the buildup toward the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who were also close to Aipac. They were led by Paul D. Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary who has been named president of the World Bank. Mr. Franklin once worked in the office of one of Mr. Wolfowitz's allies, Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary for policy at the Pentagon, who has also said he is leaving the administration later this year. (MORE)



MI: Faith Matters for Metro Arabs Many of them define selves more by religion than ethnicity

Inside a Detroit mosque Friday night, gaggles of teens shuffled into the main hall for soda and cake to celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. Most were U.S.-raised and of Arab descent; the Islamic headscarves on some women meshed comfortably with baggy football jerseys. They are, in many ways, the future of Arab America. But when asked how they primarily see themselves, most reply: Muslim or Muslim American. "Islam is a priority for me," said Ali Fawaz, a 23-year-old Dearborn resident of Lebanese descent who helped organize the gathering at the Islamic Center of America. "It comes before my ethnicity. Islam unites me with people of different races, nationalities, different cultures." The view is shared by a number of young Arab Americans across metro Detroit who are choosing to identify themselves mainly by their religion.

It's a view that reflects changes in both the United States and the Middle East, where Islam holds greater sway over younger generations. Still, the Arab-American identity remains strong in metro Detroit, and for many, the idea of being Arab, Muslim and American coexist in an image cobbled together by diverse experiences. The opening of the Arab American National Museum today will be a striking symbol of how much the idea of being an Arab American has developed. There are numerous Arab-American business associations, political outfits, and even a nurses group. But the notion of being an Arab American is a relatively new concept. And now, it's overlapping with the pull of Islam. Part of the museum deals with religion, noting that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam originated in what is today the Arab world. The contributions of Christian priests of Arab descent are also duly noted. But the first floor emphasizes how closely linked Islam and Arabs are.

Today, that relationship still exists, with many Arab Americans now embracing their Islamic beliefs. "They see themselves as American Muslims," said Imam Hassan Qazwini, head of the Islamic Center, which plans to open a new mosque in Dearborn next week. "I think the new generation doesn't care as much about ethnicity." (MORE)


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