Islamic Society of North America convention attracts 20,000 attendees, 200 speakers, entertainment

Ribbon cutting by elected officials and community leaders AT THE 60th ISNA Convention in Chicago over the Labor Day weekend. PHOTOS : ISNA

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held a high profile 60th Annual Convention which saw tens of thousands of attendees from around the continent participate in networking, discussions in numerous panels, and enjoy a massive bazaar, a film festival, sports competitions, a huge birthday cake and numerous other activities.

Held on the Labor Day weekend at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois, #ISNA60 Convention was inaugurated by around 40 elected officials and community leaders followed by Friday prayer by thousands of participants, a press release from the organization said.

#ISNA60th cake cutting by ISNA board and speakers. PHOTO: ISNA

Regarded by many as the largest annual gathering of Muslims in America, the ISNA Convention serves as a social and spiritual event, also attracts people of other faiths, international delegations, and officials from local, state, and federal government, including heads of state, according to Chairman of the Steering Committee Mir Khan.

“ISNA’s Convention is more than simply a coming together of Muslim community. Our goal is to unite people across different faiths and backgrounds in the spirit of peace and better understanding,” ISNA President Safa Zarzour, is quoted saying in his inaugural address. “This is not just a Muslim event, but this is an American event”, he said, adding that the Convention provides a platform to Muslims, guests from other faith communities, families, businesses and non-profit organizations to network and exchange ideas.

This year’s theme, “60 years of service: Navigating the way forward” was largely centered on how faith can inspire the community to bring positive social change in response to challenges and injustices of all forms, Zarzour said.

“The Convention was a great opportunity to look back and celebrate our accomplishments and successes as American Muslim community and at the same also look ahead to address some of the challenges we face as a community in North America”, he said.

Among the list of 200 distinguished speakers, scholars, community leaders, entertainers, and public servants who addressed the  Convention were Congressman Ro Khanna, D-California; Congresswoman Summer Lee, D-Pennsylvania; Goldstar father and Presidential Medal of Honor recipient Khizr Khan; and standup comedian Preacher Moss, and other national Muslim entertainers.

A Film Festival featuring Muslim American filmmakers tackling relevant issues facing Muslim Americans was one of the highlights. One of the largest Muslim matrimonial events was held during the Convention. Also, speakers like Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir and Yasir Qadhi addressed evolving Muslim issues.

Dr.Ihsan Bagby was awarded for his lifetime dedication and service to the community. PHOTO: courtesy ISNA
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, the keynote speaker during the Community Service Recognition Luncheon. PHOTO: ISNA

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, was the keynote speaker during the Community Service Recognition Luncheon which honored Dr. Ihsan Bagby for his lifetime dedication to serving the community. Mazen Basrawi, senior adviser and White House liaison to American Muslim communities, read a special letter from President Joe Biden, on building interfaith relationships and social justice advocacy, said Azhar Azeez, board member and former President, ISNA. Azeez also noted that more than 40 percent of the speakers were women, including well known academics and scholars like Dr. Rani Awad, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Ustadha Lehsa Prime, Ustadha Muslema Perumal, Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed and others.

Complementing the main ISNA offering of programs, there were conferences hosted by Muslim Students Association of US & Canada.

A section of the audience at the Convention of ISNA. PHOTO: ISNA

ISNA is the largest and oldest Islamic umbrella organization in North America. Its mission is to foster the development of the Muslim community, interfaith relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam at an international level, representing the voices of Muslim Americans, said Executive Director, ISNA Basharat Saleem.

The roots of ISNA were laid in 1963 by the Muslim Students Association of the US and Canada (now MSA-National).

“In everything that ISNA does, the effort is not just to unite and strengthen the Muslim community and their trust in Allah, but also ISNA is actively building bridges of understanding, communication, reconciliation, and cooperation with the mainstream faith and other communities,” the press release said.



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