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Religion: American Moslems

2 minute read

Toledo’s Commodore Perry Hotel had never seen a convention quite like it. On the hotel’s ballroom floor one evening last week, some 50 men took off their shoes, stepped reverently on to white sheets and prostrated themselves toward Mecca (compass bearing from Toledo: 100° true), chanting, “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar” (God the Almighty). Blackrobed imams read from the Koran and repeated with the faithful, “La Ilaha Illal-Lah” (There is no God but God). The second annual convention of the International Moslem Society, with some 500 Moslems gathered from 45 states and five Canadian provinces, was under way.

Though women attending the convention were only allowed to pray from the sidelines, they were invited on to the floor during the social get-together. Dabkah (folk-dancing) shared popularity with a unique money-raising device known as the Raqsa. Originally a wedding dance done solo by a young woman, Toledo’s Raqsa was a sinuous, shoulder-shaking affair which whirled to a stop with arms hopefully extended for cash. Delegates found this a pleasant way to part with about $1,000 during the three-day convention.

At business sessions, the president and founder of the International Moslem Society, Abdallah Igram, 30, a grocery-store operator from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, led delegates through a simple agenda. One executive board decision: to pay the cost of special identification tags for American Moslems in military service which will read, “I am a Moslem. There is but one God, and Mohammed is his prophet.” Igram was re-elected president for another year. Anxious to unite all scattered North American Moslems (estimated at 32,600) in his society, he disclaims militant proselytizing: “We don’t want to convert others, just inform them.”

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