ROSEMONT, Ill. (FinalCall.com) – Thousands from all across North America attended the Islamic Society of North America’s 47th annual conference at the Rosemont Convention Center July 2-5.
Prominent Muslim thinker and author Tariq Ramadan, Islamic scholars Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir, both of the Zaytuna Institute, and Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the current Grand Mufti of Egypt, headlined the four-day gathering which also featured dozens of well-known scholars and activists from around the nation to participate in workshops and panel discussions dealing with issues relevant to the worldwide Muslim community.
Themed “Nurturing Compassionate Communities: Connecting Faith and Service” ISNA placed a special emphasis on Muslim organizations working to provide relief to those in need, not only in the United States, but also globally.
Efforts to aid the people of Gaza, those suffering in the disputed Kashmir region, civilians being killed by drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as support for those still struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy in Haiti, were primary focus points for many of the organizations present.
Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Chicago-based Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN) worked with ISNA leadership to sponsor a tour in which convention goers were able to tour Chicago’s south side, and other areas served by IMAN.
“As great as the conference has been in terms of bringing Muslims from all over the country together, we feel it’s critical that when we come into major cities that we also provide Muslims with an opportunity to directly connect to issues and communities on the ground,” Mr. Nashashibi told The Final Call. “It’s a chance to talk to them a little more broadly about some of the challenges that confront some of these communities and why Muslims need to be part of the solutions and think about creatively partnering with Muslims who have been doing work in these communities for decades and how do we lend our expertise and resources towards really creating change on the ground,” he said.
IMAN recently held the “Takin’ It To The Streets” festival in which thousands from all over Chicago participated in cultural exchange with the Muslim community. IMAN was also involved in a rally in Springfield in which over 1,000 youth demanded fresh food in the inner city and increased efforts to prevent foreclosures.
These are examples of the outspoken advocacy that Muslim organizations should be involved in, said Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director of the Washington D.C.-based Kashmiri American Council.
“The whole purpose of these conventions is not only to educate Muslims in America about their areas of responsibility and how they can really create an understanding within America, but it is also to educate those non-Muslims who come here,” Dr. Fai told The Final Call.
Convention officials said there are an estimated 400,000 Muslims living in the metropolitan Chicago area. According to the Pew Reseach Center, there are close to 2.5 million Muslims living in the United States.
Conference events included a “Meet the Authors” program, an Islamic Art Exhibit and Film Festival, a Health Services Fair, and a huge vending bazaar with over 500 booths. Many organizations distributed free literature and other goods. Another highlight was the national Qira’at competition in which cash prizes and gift certificates were awarded in the areas of Qur’anic memorization, recitation and reading.
ISNA’s governing body announced next year’s convention would be held during the same dates again using the Rosemont Convention Center as the venue.