The largest Muslim convention in Canada was held virtually this weekend for a second year running due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS), which has a storied presence in Toronto, ran from Saturday, December 25th to Sunday, December 26th and featured well-known speakers from around the world addressing this year’s convention theme, “The Making of a Better World: Balancing Self and Society.”
“We were excited to host our virtual RIS Convention this winter from December 25-26. It has been a long year for all and alhamdulillah we have been slowly returning to what seems normalcy,” said the RIS organizers.
Pre-pandemic, the convention was regarded as much a social gathering as an educational event, especially for younger Muslims. It was first launched two decades ago 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.
Over 25,000 people from across North America would descend on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for a few days of non-stop motivational lectures from leading Muslim scholars and speakers, as well as to meet, socialize and be entertained, and shop in an expansive bazaar.
This year’s gathering attempted to capture some of that nostalgia in the online offerings with improved virtual presentations -’Together in Spirit’ and ‘Inspirational, Immersive, Interactive,’ are taglines for the convention.
In addition to streaming the lectures, the convention participants were able to interact through social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to take part in contests and children’s trivia.
The program began with a guiding reflection by Shaykh Muhammad Ninowy on the topic, ’Seamless Harmony in the Public and Private life of God’s Messenger.’
“Rich isn’t the one rich in the pocket, but is the one rich in the heart. The wealthy are not the one who has the most but the one who needs the least,” Shaykh Ninowy advised the attendees. "We face situations where we feel there is no hope...but faith doesn't only open doors, it makes doors where there are none."
“The theme of the convention will also discuss rising anti-Muslim hate in Canada,” added the RIS organizers. “Muslims in Canada witnessed the horrific attack that left four individuals – three generations – of a single Muslim family dead in the city of London, Ontario. The fallout from that tragedy ricocheted around the world and was a wakeup call to elected officials and decent law abiding citizens to become vigilante against a growing tide of hate-mongers.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and leaders of Canada’s opposition parties, Erin O’Toole of the Conservative Party and Jagmeet Singh of the New Democratic Party addressed the convention and dealt with the issue of Islamophobia and other forms of hate.
“I am excited to talk about my vision of Canada where no one is left behind and we are all celebrated for who we are,” Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the Federal New Democratic Party told the audience. “I feel we are stronger and better as a nation, as a people when we welcome everyone.”
“I also strongly believe that there is a collective responsibility that all of us share to fight hate because hate is like a fire that once we allow it to take hold, it spreads and it spreads consuming everyone,” he added. “So it is all of our collective responsibility to stand up against all forms of hate, if it is Islamophobia, or hate based on someone’s gender or the colour of their skin or any of the identifiers that make them who they are.”
This year’s presenters included an impressive list of world-renowned scholars and speakers such as, Maulana Tariq Jameel, Imam Zaid Shakir, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Dr. Abdal Hakim Murad, Sister Dalia Mogahed, Ustadha Ieasha Prime, Dr. Yasir Qadhi and others.
A number of renowned artists also participated virtually including, Native Deen, Raihan, InTeam and Ar Rayyan.