ISNA Wraps Up Historic Convention
Attendees were also entertained.
By Sadiya Ahmed, IOL Correspondent
CHICAGO , September 5, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) The 42nd Annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention has been wrapped up with a very important reminder to attendees to take back to their communities throughout North America ; The very nature of terrorism and the inhumane tactics of the terrorists were, are and will always be condemnable according to Islamic teachings.
The fanfare gathering was concluded Sunday, September 4, after three days of lectures, artistic performances and tens of parallel programs and sessions covering challenges facing Muslims in North America and many social and health aspects.
For the organizers and the hundreds of volunteers, the end of the convention is bittersweet and comes with nostalgia and relief.
With lectures to organize, the bazaar to manage, articles to be written for the newsletter, the convention volunteers were one of the core factors in making this year's convention a success, according to IOL Correspondent.
These volunteers, mostly youth and college students are a testimony to the awesome potential that young Muslims in America have to sacrifice of their talents and their energies in service of the convention attendees, IOL Correspondent added.
This year's convention, addressing the challenges and successes of yesteryear and the aspirations for tomorrow has been one of the most politically and socially mobilizing ISNA conventions.
It kicked off Friday with meetings with Karen Hughes, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and continuing on with various presentations by elected leaders such as State Senator Larry Shaw of North Carolina and other interfaith leaders and organizers, the convention gained momentum as each day passed.
In addition to the ever-present topic of terrorism, other topics that were prominent included the role of women in Islam vis-a-vis leadership positions in the community, the role of the Imam as a multi-dimensional leader of the community, and the dire need for Muslims to live up to Islamic teachings that emphasize a great concern for uplifting the quality of life for all of mankind.
The last point was addressed in motivating speeches as well as in concrete calls for action for Muslims to donate generously to the relief funds established in support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Jamal Badawi addressing the Interfaith Unity Banquet.
The convention also addressed concretely the increasing demand for a forum by which families can meet prospective candidates for marriage for their sons and daughters.
The Matrimonial Banquet provided such a forum in adherence to Islamic teachings and decorum.
One participant of the banquet, too shy to give his name told IOL that he did not find the banquet very helpful while others were thankful to ISNA for having organized such a forum.
According to organizers, only a few years ago, one such banquet resulted in 21 marriages.
Jeffrey Lang signing books.
While the convention program provided tremendous structure, for Muslims, there was already an existing routine such as the five daily prayers.
For some convention attendees who live in communities with small Muslim populations, the convention provided an opportunity of a lifetime to pray all five prayers in congregation.
The convention addressed all issues, from spiritual to social ones. The ISNA bazaar had a steady stream of customers ranging in ages from the very young to the very old, with one thing in common - they were all looking for a good bargain.
From Arabic language software to books on practicing Islam to the latest modest Islamic clothing to the CDs of religious supplications and other remembrances of Allah the bazaar had it all.
Many customers could be overheard struggling to strike a deal with the vendors, bargaining relentlessly and almost always, walking away pleased, IOL Correspondent witnessed.
Another major highlight of the convention was the sessions on entertainment.
Attendees were treated this year to famous artists like Shaam, Ashiqur Rasul, 786 and Native Deen to comedian Azhar Usman.
From the prayers to the bazaar to the entertainment sessions, new friendships were formed, networks were established, and the feeling of solidarity cemented. It was difficult for one to leave the convention center without feeling both empowered and a bit saddened to see it all come to a close.
According to Steering Committee Chair Kareem Irfan, the goal of this year's convention was to "convince people from all different [religious] levels to come together and become better Muslims."
Along the way, there were many difficulties, "Having to be accommodating of Muslims of different convictions", which he identified as one of the most significant ones.
The convention, according to Irfan, is in the midst of a transitory period where the organizers are consciously attempting to make the overall atmosphere more inclusive for both grassroots movements and building bridges between generations.
Committee chairs were encouraged to find more sisters and to help their transition into positions of leadership as well as finding volunteers from a younger age bracket.
As an umbrella organization for many of the smaller and local groups within the Muslim minority, ISNA is responsible for setting the agenda for issues of importance and this year's convention was a milestone as ISNA set forth its more direct agenda.
The emphasis on bridging gaps between different groups in the community, issues of gender, and the stance on social and political activism have all been a part of the new' ISNA and have helped create an atmosphere for change and progress in the future.
ISNA announced that Chicago has the honor of hosting the convention again in 2006.