ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) - U.S. Muslims were urged by two supporters on Capitol Hill to begin flexing their political muscle, while plans were outlined to do just that on Nov. 7.
An estimated 30,000 Muslims, gathered for the Islamic Society of North America convention, were addressed by congressmen David Bonior, D-Mich., and Tom Campbell, R-Calif.
Bonior extended greetings from Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore while Campbell read a statement from Gore's GOP rival, George W. Bush.
As he often has, Bush said he wants to help ''rally the armies of compassion'' in churches, mosques, synagogues and charities to help the needy.
Bonior, calling Islam the country's fastest-growing religion, said, ''You are giving Islam in America the strong voice it needs, and deserves ... The challenge for Muslims is to translate your activism into political strength.''
Both congressmen, regarded as allies of the Muslim community, criticized a 1996 anti-terrorism bill that allows the immigration service to hold people based on anonymous accusations. The so-called ''secret evidence'' bill is a prime grievance of U.S. Muslims.
The convention also heard plans for a bloc voting strategy to give Muslims leverage in the November election.
Agha Saeed, chairman of the California-based American Muslim Alliance, said four Islamic political groups have agreed to send questionnaires to mosques and other Islamic organizations, compile the results, and issue endorsements in the presidential and other key races two weeks before the election.
In the past, some Muslims have questioned the value of political involvement, and no such joint effort has been attempted.
Saeed's organization calculates that Muslim votes could make the difference in close races in 14 states.
Though the figure is sometimes disputed, speakers said U.S. Muslims number at least 6 million.
Also Sunday, the Muslim American Society held its annual conference nearby in Chicago. That event was highlighted by a show of unity between by Imam W. Deen Mohammed, the society's leader, and the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan.
The two have been rivals, but on Sunday smiled, shook hands and then embraced before thousands of worshippers. ''Today, we are determined to be one family. We are determined to be a nation of Muslims,'' Farrakhan said.
On the Net:
Islamic Society of North America: http://www.isna.net
Muslim American Society: http://www.masnet.org