By Omar bin Abdullah
CHICAGO : The annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) proved a big draw this year as nearly 10,000 US Muslims gathered here to discuss the community and dawah initiatives.
The first session of the 4-day convention witnessed the launching of the Encyclopedia of Moral Excellence which was introduced by its editor Abdul Rahman bin Mallouh. The epoch-making 12-volume compilation was released with the Urdu translation of the first volume.
Chicago’s fabled Michigan Avenue which closes for routine events such as Chicago Bulls victory parade was closed in honour of the Muslims rally on Sunday, the 31st August, as Muslims who gathered for Zuhr prayers in the nearby Grant Park spilled onto the wide avenue even as hundreds of them preferred to pray within the Hilton Hotel, the centre of the conclave. ISNA President, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, reminded the Muslims that in their journey for creating a moral society they would need to take along other religious people. General Secretary, Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, reminded the Muslims that they were all ambassadors of Islam to the United States just as 125 years ago the first American Muslim Alexander Russell Webb had returned home as the emissary of Islam. The convention began on Friday, the August 29th, Friday Prayer in the Hilton’s ballroom with Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui exhorting the participants that they would need to put their hearts and minds together to promote truth, justice and peace for all. He said the ISNA conventions were not merely social gatherings but were organised with a purpose in mind.
Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Shariff sent Senator Ahsan Iqbal the Minister in-charge for the country’s 2010 Development Programme. OIC was represented by its secretary general Azedin Laraki. IDB sent Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ali, President of the Bank. Dr. Abdullah Omar Nassief, Secretary General of Muslim World League was also there. WAMY was represented by its secretary general Maneh al Johaini. Dr.Chirzen, Director of the International Islamic Forum on Science, Technology and Human Resource Development and Samsettin Turkan, Chairman of the Ankara-based International Council of Humanitarian Aid Organizations also participated.
President Bill Clinton sent a message for the convention. Illionois Governor Jim Edgar declared a statewide “American Muslim Community Week” stating that four lakh Muslims of his state contributed to the moral excellence and unity in diversity. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley declared the Labour Day weekend as the “American Muslim Community Week in Chicago.”
Parallel sessions discussed issues such as family life in the US, supporting Muslim minorities in other countries, medical ethics, pre-marital and marital counselling, issues of concern of the Muslim youth, promoting civil liberties and developing ties with the local school system. Sunday sessions were focused on developing skills in media use, mainstreaming Islam in the college classroom, strategic planning, political activism, investment strategies and relief work.
It was the first time for ISNA conventions when working journalists from Chicago Tribune, the Suntimes and Chicago Defender and a professor of journalism came to address the Muslims on how to reach the media. The session was co-ordinated by Moin Khan, Chairman of the Convention’s Public Relations Committee.
A massive market had sprung out at the convention centre with varied products, ideas and services. People came to the convention to learn, to socialize, to find matches for their offsprings and to fulfil their familial obligations. An upstate New York family was at the convention to learn and to expose their young daughters to the experience of being with so many Muslims.