Canadian Muslim Convention tackles difficult issues
(December 26, 2014) – The Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention in Toronto tackled some of the most pressing questions faced by Muslims in today’s world on the opening day of the conference on Friday.
Speakers addressed the questions – What can Muslims do to reclaim their religion from the zealots? How can Muslims restore calm in societies when confusion rages all around us?
“Be awakened,” said Bosnia’s Grand Mufti Emeritus Mustafa Ceric, “Don’t take things slightly. Be aware. Don’t be used or taken advantage of.”
“A mature Muslim will never be deceived by the devil,” added Dr. Ceric.
Dr. Ceric opined that the RIS Convention acts as a surrogate global platform for Muslim religious leaders to address the Muslim world.
“We first have to acknowledge our shortcomings,” he continued. “Then we work together to fix them. With the help of Allah, we can.
“Our ummah’s first and most significant illness is that we love each other, but we do not respect each other.”
Earlier in the day, thousands of people streamed into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the heart of downtown Toronto for the beginning of the Convention which got underway with an inspiring Friday Sermon by Dr. Munir El-Kassem.
“There are trials and tribulations in the world,” said Dr. Munir El-Kassem. “We are being tested big time.”
“Do not feel that there is no hope,” he added. “We’ve to push through difficulties.”
The Convention, themed ‘He Came to Teach You Your Religion – Prophetic Answers to Angelic Questions’, is set to run over the weekend and organizers are expecting 20,000 attendees.
In an evening session, Imam Siraj Wahhaj advised the gathering, “You can be against your country policies, but you can’t be against your country, Canada.”
Imam Siraj Wahhaj is one of the most admired Muslim leaders and speakers in North America. He once led a community-based anti-drug campaign in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn forcing the closure of drug houses in the neighborhood.
“I want to see the Muslims at the forefront of everything that is good in Canada,” he added.
“It’s not how you are born, it’s how you die, how you live your life,” noted Imam Siraj Wahhaj. “You will never go to Jannah until you believe, and you will never believe until you love one another.”
Salma Yaqoob, the former leader of the British Respect party and a former Birmingham city councillor, spoke eloquently on the topic, ‘Give up the News to Treat the Blues’
“This world is not meant to be perfect, but it’s also not meant to be an escape,” she told a rapt audience. “We’re here to struggle.”
“Do not let hatred from any people in the least swerve you from dealing justly,” she added.
A highlight of the opening day’s program was an address by Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr on the topic, ‘Why Atheism is Spreading and Religion Merely Surviving.’
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, currently University Professor of Islamic Studies at the George Washington University, Washington D.C. is one of the most important and foremost scholars of Islamic, Religious and Comparative Studies in the world today.
“God is the Light of the heavens and earth,” Dr. Nasr told the audience. “To be bright is to be touched by the Light of God.”
The RIS has emerged as a major platform for some of the leading Muslim personalities from around the world to address one of the largest assemblies of Muslims in the western hemisphere.
Another highlight of the first day was the Annual Appreciation Dinner to honour the visiting scholars and speakers. Dignitaries, community leaders, and political and civic leaders attended the elegant dinner which was addressed by Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, one of Islam’s greatest living jurists.
“As Canadians, you should be promoting sound citizenship,” Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah advised the gathering.
Speaking on the topic of ‘Doomsday ETA: Instructions From Revealed GPS (God’s Positioning System)’, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, one of America’s most popular Muslim scholars, issued an impassioned call for repentance to the attendees.
“There will come a time where ignorance will be seen as knowledge and knowledge seen as ignorance,” said Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. “The world is in tribulation. We need global repentance.”
Many people say that they keep coming back to RIS as it offers a unique opportunity to listen to well-known Muslim personalities.
“It’s a unique opportunity to hear speakers from all over the world addressing a variety of topics that you won’t often hear at your local mosque,” Toronto resident Rashad Dasigan told IQra.ca
This year’s rostrum of speakers at the convention include some of the most well-known Muslims personalities in the English speaking world such as Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah (Mauritania), Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (USA), Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad (UK), Mufti Mustafa Cerić, Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia, Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Shatri (KSA), Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (USA), Shaykha Muslema Purmul (USA), Imam Zaid Shakir (USA), Salma Yaqoob (UK), Shaykh Sulaiman Moola (South Africa) and Imam Siraj Wahhaj (USA).
The Islamic Spirit convention was first launched in 2003 by Muslim youth to tackle the backlash on Islam and Muslims after the 9/11 and to build a bridge of understanding with non-Muslims.
A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.
Muslims are the fastest growing religious community in Canada, according to the country’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada.
Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011.
Muslims represent 3.2 percent of Canada’s total population.
A report from the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life said that Muslims are expected to make up 6.6% of Canada’s total population in 2030.