Muslim Group Invites Bush to Annual Meeting

A leading U.S. Muslim group called on President Bush Wednesday to show his support for mainstream Islam in this country and worldwide by meeting with the group next week in Chicago.

Bush could make a powerful statement to the world's 1.2 billion Muslims by appearing at the annual meeting of the Islamic Society of North America, just as he showed his support for adherents of the religion when he visited a Washington mosque a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Sayyid Syeed, the group's secretary general.

ISNA, an umbrella organization of largely immigrant Muslim organizations and mosques in the United States and Canada, will attract tens of thousands of Muslims to Chicago for its annual meeting over Labor Day weekend.

Syeed told The Associated Press in an interview that ISNA, based outside Indianapolis, has invited Bush to speak each year since he became president.

"His coming to Chicago would send a powerful message to the Muslim world and the world at large that America's fight is not against Islam, it is not against Muslims, it is against extremism and terrorism," Syeed said.

Next week's meeting follows a recent fatwa (search), or religious edict, by U.S. Muslim scholars condemning terrorism, and the convention will include other steps to check the spread of Muslim extremism and terrorism in this country, Syeed said.

The Associated Press left a message with the White House press office Wednesday afternoon seeking reaction to Syeed's comments.

The Bush administration will be represented at the ISNA meeting by Karen Hughes (search), a Bush confidante who recently was confirmed as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Her tasks include improving the U.S. image in Muslim countries.