WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – A highlight of the 46th Annual Convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which brought together 35,000 participants from around the country under the theme, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was its tribute to Imam Warith Deen Muhammad.
“He was one leader who left an important legacy,” said ISNA President Dr. Ingrid Mattson to the standing room only crowd of more than 8,000 July 4. “Imam Warith Deen Mohammed is someone who epitomized the strong and groundbreaking legacy of those who established Islam in America in ways immigrants couldn’t.”
The audience was treated to a short video clip of his history from attending Muhammad University of Islam, to teaching Islam in his Fruit of Islam uniform, to an embrace with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to numerous awards and honors to his trip to the Vatican to meet with Pope John Paul II.
His daughter Laila Muhammad received an award on his behalf. Imam Mohammed was a son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
“He lived his life for the pleasure of Allah and worked very hard to reach his human excellence,” she said.
Imam Siraj Wahaj also received an award that evening the Lifetime Achievement Award. He thanked ISNA for the award and said he was humbled by the honor.
“We have some very good days ahead of us,” he said. “The Declaration of Independence is a wonderful document. It ends with 30 grievances to King George III. Stand up for our rights and be Muslims. Don’t be afraid to criticize the government when wrong or Muslims when they are wrong. Stand up for justice,” he said.
The next day a workshop was dedicated to remembering his Imam Mohammed’s works.
Many who grew up in the Nation of Islam recounted their life and times with the imam.
Former North Carolina State Senator Larry Shaw said, “His Excellency Imam Warith D. Muhammad was a man who readily gave his all. I, like many, have been touched by his humanity. He gave so others could benefit from what he knew.”
“He was well known for interfaith dialogues, reaching out to other communities. His own teaching and personal way opened the doors for many to Islam. He would put the facts out there and let you come to your own conclusion,” he said.
Jamil Muhammad, longtime follower of Min. Farrakhan, said after the workshop, “I was encouraged and impressed with what I heard particularly about the bearing of witness to his personal character. The imam was always kind to me. I was happy to hear others talk about him as a human being and not just as a leader, scholar or public figure.”
The ISNA conference included a call for pluralism and bridge-building between different government and faith communities in the U.S. with an opening keynote by Valerie Jarrett, who serves as a senior advisor and assistant to President Obama for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.
“As this convention demonstrates,” she noted, “gone are the days of describing distinct sets of ‘Muslim issues’ and ‘American issues.’ Your work here is crucial in confronting the challenges that all Americans are facing. And you help advance the new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities around the world that the president called for in Cairo.”
She commended ISNA for addressing critical issues in the convention, including “increasing civic engagement and interfaith cooperation, protecting the rights of the disabled and elderly, addressing domestic violence, improving education and health care, expanding renewable energy, and protecting the environment.”
The convention featured 70 sessions including Sharia compliant homeownership to Purifying the Heart to Matrimonials, and gave participants the opportunity to address issues of Islamic and national concern. Attendees were also able to plan future projects and engage in interreligious and intergenerational discussions.
One of the workshops was also devoted to Muslims in the media. “Everyone’s changing the way you read news,” said Wajahat Ali, a San Francisco-based lawyer turned blogger and writer for publications such as the Washington Post and Huffington Post internet site. “Most people 18-35 get their news on their cell phones. Print journalism is evolving. The State Department reads allmuslim.com every day as the pulse of the Muslim world,” he noted. “Traditional western media often humiliates Muslims. We have to tell the Muslim American story. New media gives us the avenue and the means to do this.”
In addition to Ms. Jarrett, guest speakers included, the popular singer Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and the evangelical Pastor Rick Warren.
“As globalization draws up closer together the question is how do we live together in peace and harmony and maintain our convictions?” he said to a packed crowd. “We must lead in this world. There are over one billion Muslims and over two billion Christians … we have to do something about modeling what’s good.
In his speech, Pastor Warren appealed for Muslims and Christians to work together to solve common problems which he said was possible without “compromising my convictions or your convictions.”