ISNA Convention seeks to nurture compassionate communities

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held its 47th Annual Convention over the July 4th weekend in the Rosemont suburb of Chicago, Illinois.

Thousands of Muslims from across North America and the globe convened in one place to celebrate this year’s theme, “Nurturing Compassionate Communities: Connecting Faith and Service.”

ISNA Secretary General, Safaa Zarzour, expressed deep gratitude for all who made this year’s convention possible.

“We are so thankful to all who attended this convention, all the volunteers, the wonderful Chicago community, and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.”

Hotels in the area were sold out due to high demand for the ISNA Convention and local, national and international media traveled to the convention to share with the world the message of compassion and community service echoed throughout each of the more than 100 convention sessions and special events.

A press conference held early Friday afternoon was attended by most major Chicago news channels, including ABC, NBC and Fox News.

Dr. Ingrid Mattson

ISNA President Dr. Ingrid Mattson shared with the media the purpose of this year’s theme.

“The Muslim community is often reactive to negative press or events, but this year’s convention, nurturing compassionate communities, is a proactive measure to assist local communities to develop the networks and framework necessary to positively engage community members and avoid negative marginalization of Muslim community members,” she said.

Following the press conference, thousands of Muslims joined together in Jummah Prayer, led by ISNA Vice President, Imam Mohamed Magid.

Friday night closed with the Inaugural Session, led by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Safaa Zarzour and Imam Mohamed Magid.

The convention ran through Monday July 5

A diverse array of speakers addressed this year’s convention, with topics ranging from green energy, media literacy, the Prophet Muhammad, Quranic studies, Muslim American identify formation, family and education to nurturing a halal way of life.

Thousands of attendees packed the main hall for Saturday evening’s main session.

Entitled “Nurturing Compassionate Communities: Connecting Faith and Service,” the session addressed this year’s theme by highlighting ways North American Muslims can reach out and serve the community at large.

Imam Suhaib Webb

The list of dynamic speakers included well-known favorites Hamza Yusuf and Suhaib Webb as well as much anticipated keynote speakers, Professor Tariq Ramadan and Grand Mufti Shaikh Ali Gomaa of Egypt.

Professor Tariq Ramadan

“Working for unity does not mean working for conformity,” Tariq Ramadan told the large audience.

“Remember that compassion towards one’s self is also important. If you come with sincerity, Allah will come with love.”

Shaikh Hamza Yusuf

Shaikh Hamza Yusuf emphasized the importance of proper understanding in religion while urging the promotion of accurate and accredited scholarship.

“Religion is more powerful than any temporal government,” he said. “Religion is powerful, but it is also dangerous. Our religion is a beautiful religion and it is being made ugly by the acts of fools.”

Nearly ten thousand people attended the main session.

Rashad Hussain

America’s Special Envoy to the Organization for Islamic Conference (OIC) Rashad Hussain read a letter from President Obama highlighting the positive engagement of the Muslim community and ISNA in his United We Serve Campaign.

Shaikh Ali Gomaa

The session closed with remarks from the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaikh Ali Gomaa. Who shared his vision of community and compassion.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj Honored at This Year’s Community Service Luncheon

ISNA’s 11th annual Community Service Recognition Luncheon was held on Saturday afternoon during the convention.

This year, ISNA honored Imam Siraj Wahhaj with the 2010 Community Service Recognition Award.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj

“I am honored. As a result of this token you have given me, I am even more committed to serve,” said Imam Siraj Wahhaj.

Wahhaj is the current Imam of Masjid Al-Taqwa in Brooklyn, New York and Chair of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA).

In addition, he has many years of service to ISNA as a former Vice-President and as a member of the Majlis Ash-Shura and ISNA Planning Committee.

Ahmed ElHattab, Executive Director of the ISNA Development Foundation, said, “Imam Siraj has a long history of dedicated service to his community. He has worked tirelessly to rid the streets of Brooklyn from crime, drug abuse, and violence, with awards and recognition from the Brooklyn Police Department, among others.”

600 people attended the event which included a fundraising portion.

Over 400,000 dollars in donations were pledged to support ISNA programs and services to Muslim communities nationwide.

Safa Zarzour

Safaa Zarzour, ISNA Secretary General, reassured the audience of ISNA’s commitment towards serving and uniting Muslim Americans.

“One of the most pressing issues we are facing now is our ability to connect with our affiliates and grassroots organizations. ISNA promises to create programs that connect Muslims with one another across the Unites States. Your help today is going to be used wisely to help get ISNA where it needs to be in our communities.”

Keynote speaker, Professor Tariq Ramadan, emphasized the importance of Muslim involvement in broader social issues and not just self interests.

“We must ask ourselves, who do we serve; power or justice; money or truth. As Muslims we have to serve all the people around the world.”

ISNA Celebrates Work of Muslim, Interfaith and Government Leaders to Nurture Compassionate Communities

The 47th Annual ISNA Convention was packed with members of the interfaith community and government officials, as both speakers and attendees.

On Friday July 2, ISNA President Dr. Ingrid Mattson welcomed more than 70 national Muslim and interfaith partners to the Presidential Reception for Dignitaries.

Dr. Mattson thanked all in attendance for graciously accepting her invitation to participate in the reception, which provided an opportunity for the leaders to network, enjoy themselves, and strengthen bonds of community leadership.

The morning of Saturday July 3 began for many leaders with the Government Officials Breakfast, chaired by Dr. Ingrid Mattson and Imam Mohamed Magid.

This event was attended by ISNA leadership, along with more than 50 national Muslim leaders, representing many of the diverse American Muslim organizations from across the nation and U.S. government officials.

Representatives from the federal government included Mr. Rashad Hussain from the White House, Mr. Mazen Basrawi from the Department of Justice, Mr. George Selim from the Department of Homeland Security, and representatives from USAID.

The Muslim leaders raised issues facing the American Muslim community, including terrorist watch lists, travel problems, visa issues, and religious accommodation in the military.

Government officials in attendance responded to most of these issues and promised their cooperation to find resolution to other issues raised in the meeting.

Shaikh Ali Gomaa, Imam Magid Ali, and Professor Tariq Ramadan

Dr. Ingrid Mattson also chaired a luncheon in the afternoon of Sunday July 4 to honor Shaykh Ali Gomaa and Professor Tariq Ramadan.

The event was attended by more than 60 Muslim scholars and leaders of various Islamic organizations and provided an opportunity for all to learn from Shaykh Ali Gomaa who spoke to attendees about the misunderstandings of Islam and its effect on the image of Islam.

“In its correct understanding, Islam focuses on ethics, morality and cooperation,” he said.

Shaykh Ali also condemned violence in the name of Islam and urged the promotion of peace and compassion within our communities.

[Report compiled with files from ISNA]