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Thousands Attend ISNA Convention

By Ayub Khan, MMNS

CHICAGO,IL–More than 45,000 Muslims from across the nation attended the 44th Annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America at the Donald E.Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, near Chicago. The convention featured multiple parallel sessions ranging from issues as diverse as economic development to the art of being interviewed. Most of the session centred on the convention theme: “Upholding Faith, Serving Humanity.” The convention was addressed by a wide array of scholars, academics, politicians, and activists.

Keith Ellison, the first Muslim Congressmen, underscored the importance of being proactive at the ISNA Community Recognition Luncheon. He sais Muslims have to be the ones to take initiative and not allow people or circumstances to act upon them. If Muslims want their stories told correctly, then they should be the ones to tell their own stories, and not leave it to others to tell their stories and portray them as villains.

“Be heard. Don’t be silent. Tell it like it is,” said Rep. Keith Ellison.

Rev.Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition said the current problems faced by Muslims are similar to the ones faced by African-Americans in the past. He said the fear of Islam and Muslims is irrational and totally uncalled for. “Global fear is a form of pollution. We free people by hope. Fear and phobias based on race and religion threaten the great American promise. Most Americans are killed by Christians and not Muslims. Let’s not succumb to fear. None of us are safe unless all of us are safe,” he said.

Addressing the opening session Rabbi Eric H.Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, denounced Christian fundamentalists like Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham for their divisive agenda.

“The time has come to stand up to the opportunists, the media figures, the religious leaders and politicians who demonize Muslims and bash Islam, exploiting the fears of their fellow citizens for their own purposes,” Rabbi Yofie said.

Howard Dean,Chairman of the Deomcratic National Committee, and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, the senior most congresswomen, gave a call for unity at the “Take Back America” rally held during the convention.

Dean called for a raise in the minimum wage and for measures making college education affordable for all. He said their are numerous oppurtunities for Muslims in the DNC. Addressing a packed hall Dean urged the Muslims to get involved politically.

“You need to run for political office,” Dean said. “The only way you can achieve your goals is to stand up and say who you are and be proud of it.”

Apart from the lectures the convention also had a large bazaar consisting of 330 stalls selling everything from books, clothing, jewelry to Quranic Ipods, and GPS enabled Hajj navigation systems.

There were entertainment sessions with Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Native Deen and others.

For the first time in ISNA’s history there was also an official Mushaira or Urdu poetry recital. It was chaired by prominent Urdu poet from India Kaleem Ajiz.

The Mushaira session was jam packed. Surprisingly about a dozen teenagers also attended the Mushaira despite the fact that the MSA’s entertainment session was going on at the same time.

After years long spell in Chicago, the next ISNA convention will be held in Columbus, Ohio.


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