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34th Annual ICNA-MAS Convention Post-Convention Report


05 27 09

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPuvx8eHfyA

 

From the desk of the Ameer:

Dr. Zahid Bukhari, President of ICNA

Dr. Zahid Bukhari, President of ICNA

Alhamdulillah, the 34th Annual ICNA-MAS Convention, held in Hartford, CT from May 23rd to 25th, was a huge success. We are truly grateful to the community for their support and participation at the convention. May Allah bless all the convention delegates, speakers, volunteers and sponsors for offering their time and talent to ICNA. Ameen. We also extend special thanks to the Connecticut Convention Center, the Hartford Visitors Bureau and their respective staff for welcoming and accommodating us.

We ask that you forgive us for our shortcomings and join us in recognizing that all good comes from Allah and Allah alone. As always, your feedback is essential to ICNA and we request that you e-mail us with your thoughts on the convention.

Theme: Global Crisis – Islamic Solution

Attendance:
Close to 11,000 people converged in Hartford, CT to attend the convention, a number slightly higher than the previous year’s attendance. Given the following factors, we are thankful to Allah (SWT) for blessing this event:

• Change of dates – This year, the convention was moved to Memorial Day weekend. In addition, the event started on Saturday instead of Friday, and ended on Monday instead of Sunday.
• Tough economic conditions – Market indicators confirm that Americans are cutting back on spending. Alhamdulillah, our community found enough value in the convention program and environment that they flocked to it in record numbers.
• Swine flu scares – By putting their trust in Allah (SWT), the community was able to overcome the fear of flu-related cases in the tri-state area and join thousands at the convention.

Demographics:
State Representation

1. AL
2. CA
3. CT
4. DE
5. FL
6. GA
7. IL
8. IN
9. KS
10. KY
11. LA
12. MA
13. MD
14. MI
15. MN
16. MO
17. NB
18. NC
19. ND
20. NE
21. NH
22. NJ
23. NV
24. NY
25. OH
26. OK
27. ON
28. OR
29. PA
30. PQ
31. RI
32. TN
33. TX
34. VA
35. VT
36. WA
37. WI

Age Group/ Total Percentage
1. Babies (1-4) 4.1%
2. Children (5-12) 11.6%
3. Teens (13-16) 7.5%
4. Youth (17-22) 9.5%
5. Youth (23-30) 7.8%
6. Under 30 26.6%
7. Not Mentioned 33%


Duration of Stay/ Forms


3 days 77.5%
Only Saturday 8.6%
Only Sunday 13.5%
Only Monday 0.4%

Programs & Speakers Summary

Alhamduillah, the convention hosted close to 100 sessions over a course of three days. Programs were designed to address needs of all age groups and both genders, along with those of varying ethnic, professional and educational backgrounds.

Approximately 100 speakers were hosted at this year’s event. We thank all of our speakers, majority of whom covered their own logistical expenses. Many join the convention with families, and mingle with delegates as average participants.

The convention team felt extremely honored when Imam Siraj Wahhaj chose the ICNA convention to be his first major public speaking engagement after being diagnosed with cancer. He is currently undergoing active treatment; may Allah SWT give him a quick and full recovery. Ameen.

Speakers included:
• Leading Scholars and Imams such as Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Sh. Abdool Rahman Khan, Sh. Mokhtar Maghraoui, Sh. Mohammad ibn Faqih, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Imam Zaid Shakir, Sh. Muhammad Iqbal Nadvi , Sh. Faraz Rabbani
• Leading Academic Intellectuals such as Dr. John Esposito, Dr. Sulayman Nyang, Dalia Mogahed, Dr. Mumtaz Ahmed, Dr. Parvez Ahmed, Dr. Necati Aydin, Dr. Mohammad Siddiqi
• Dr. Omer Chapra – Leading Financial Expert from Islamic Development Bank
• National Leadership of Ahmad El Bendary, Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Dr. Agha Saeed, Nihad Awad, Dr. Zahid Parvaiz and More!
• Family experts Imam Mohamed Magid, Sh. Ali Sulieman Ali, Dr. Mohamed Sadiq
• Community Activists such as Imam Khalid Griggs, Imam Jawad Ahmed, Amy Goodman, Chaplain Yee, Dr. Altaf Hussain, Mahdi Bray, Imam Omer Suleiman, Sr. Jane Aslam, Sr. Malika Rushdan, Omar Mohammedi, Sr. Aminah Assilmi, Assemblywoman Gamila Nasheed
• Community Leaders such as Sh. Mohamed Qatanani, Imam Shamsi Ali, Dr. Mohammad Ataul Karim, Imam Basyouni Nahela, Imam Daud Haqq, Imam Hafiz Zafeer, Imam Khalifa Ramadan, Imam Rauf Zaman, Sh. Ahmed Kobeisy
• Interfaith Leaders such as Dr. Irfan Khan, Fr. Francis Tiso, and local Hartford leadership
• Zain Bhikha – World Renowned Nasheed Artist releasing his latest album titled 1415
• Baba Ali – YouTube’s #1 Most Popular Muslim Performer

ICNA speakers showcased at the convention:
Sh. Abdool Rahman Khan, Sh. Ali Sulieman Ali, Sh. Mokhtar Maghraoui, Sh. Muhammad Iqbal Nadvi, Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Imam Hafiz Zafeer, Imam Jawad Ahmed, Imam Omer Sulieman, Sh. Ahmed Kobeisy, Dr. Irfan Khan, Dr. Khurshid Khan, Dr. Mohammad Younis, Dr. Talat Sultan, Dr. Mahbubur Rahman, Dr. Mohsin Ansari, Arif Hussain, Abdus Salaam Musa, Dr. Abaid Choudry, Dr. Gulam Mustafa Khan, Jane Aslam, Javaid Siddiqi, Malika Rushdan, Naeem Baig, Yasin Khan, Yasir Ali

Main Programs:

The following 12 main sessions were featured:
1. Global Crisis: Families in Need
2. Other Weapons of Mass Destruction – Young, Poor, Illiterate, and Losing Hope
3. Our Endangered Values: The Moral Crisis for Society
4. Keynote Session
5. The New World Disorder
6. Open Q&A with ICNA Scholars Council
7. Bubble Trouble: The Global Financial Crisis
8. Gaps in the Academia: Rethinking Education in America
9. Fault-Lines in the Ummah: Conflicts in Religious People
10. Moving From Crisis to Opportunity
11. Joint Entertainment Session with Youth Conference
12. Our Responsibility in the Times of Opportunity

Parallel Programs:

Programming Track/ # of Timeslots
Business & Networking with Career Fair- 2
Civil Rights- 4
Community Series- 6
Dawah Series- 6
Education- 1
Family & Parenting Series- 8
Historical Lessons Series- 3
Interfaith Dinner- 1
Islamic Finance- 2
Media Series- 2
Professional Forums- 2
Self-Development Series- 3
Sisters Only- 3
Social Services- 4
Total Parallel Session Slots- 47

Ethnic Sessions:
Language/ # of Timeslots
Arabic- 3
Urdu- 3
Bangla- 1
Indonesian- 1
Albanian- 1
Total Ethnic Sessions- 9

Special Events:

Youth Conference – Reviving the Heart

Hundreds of youth made this summer unforgettable by starting it off at the Youth Conference 2009, a Young Muslims hosted event running parallel to the annual ICNA convention. They rejuvenated their mind, body and soul with dynamic speakers, intensive workshops, basketball tournaments, Qiraat competitions and entertainment sessions.

The main sessions hosted by the Youth Conference were as follows:
• The Heart of the Matter
• The Heart: Your Inner Radar
• Diseases of the Heart
• Cures for the Heart
• Revival of the Heart: Establishing the Drive/Empowering the Youth

Window to Islam – An Interactive Symposium

In a world of increasing communal hostility and mistrust among people of faith, ICNA felt the need for a forum where individuals could set aside stereotypes and come together in a spirit of dialogue and honest enquiry. “A Window To Islam”, a diverse interactive gathering, provided a space for people of all faiths and backgrounds to discuss a range of socio-religious issues pertaining to Islam and America. This entire day program featured informative sessions, extensive Q&A rounds, cultural bazaar, art exhibitions, cross cultural interaction, an interactive lunch and an observance of afternoon prayers.

This event featured four interactive sessions as follows:
• Family Challenges in the 21st Century
• Islamic Finance – A Viable Alternative?
• Civil Rights in Islam – Panel Discussion
• Happiness – An Elusive Goal?

The prime objective of this session was to break stereotypes and provide the attendees with the opportunity to ask any questions they may have about Islam. The organizers were pleasantly rewarded with one of the attendees taking shahadah at the end of the day.

Program for Children by MCNA

MCNA held programs in four rooms of the convention center. Activities were well received.

Fun & Games by Camali

Camali was again a huge hit among children and parents. This year, the new rides, mountain climbing and bungee jumping were the main attraction. This area was packed with children at all times. Camali hosted shows at regular intervals. They also performed a play in main hall on Sunday at 2 pm. The attendance in that session was impressive.

Tadhkeer & Qiyam ul Lail Programs

Short tadhkeer sessions were arranged after Fajr prayers in every hotel on Sunday and Monday mornings. In addition, there were also brief sessions after Dhuhr and Maghrib prayers. Qiyam ul Lail was arranged on Saturday and Sunday nights and was led by leading reciters of the United States.

Midnight Basketball for Youth Boys

Once again the youth boys were all marching at midnight towards the basketball courts setup by YM on Sunday night. This event is very popular among youth and some young speakers. The basketball tournament runs from midnight to Fajr prayers. In the past, Imam Zaid Shakir and Imam Siraj Wahhaj have played one-on-one to kick-off this tournament.

Interfaith Sessions

The convention hosted an interfaith dinner on Sunday, May 24 at 4 pm. Local leadership from all major faith groups was represented. Close to 100 individuals participated in this event. There was also a main session which discussed the role of religion and how it could prevent moral decline in the society. This session was addressed by Fr. Francis Tiso, Dr. Sulayman Nyang and Sh. Abdool Rahman Khan.

Islamic Goods Bazaar

Alhamdulillah, around 200 booths were setup at the convention bazaar. The exhibitors featured art, books, businesses, clothing, hijabs, Islamic CDs of Quran recitation, nasheeds, lectures, etc.

Exhibitors were divided into the following categories:
• ICNA Departments, Divisions, Projects
• Books, Publishers & Media
• Clothing, Scarves & Jewelry
• Food & Health Care
• Gifts, Paintings and Frames
• Businesses
• Non-Profit Organizations (Relief, Dawah & Educational)

Community Recognition Luncheon

This invitation-only luncheon was held on Sunday, May 24, from 12 to 3 pm. The event was attended by around 150 notable guests. It featured prestigious award presentation to the following distinguished individuals:

• Dr. Umer Chapra
• Dr. John Esposito
• Dalia Mogahed

Fundraising

This year fundraising was conducted by Imam Jawad Ahmed in the main hall and Br. Abdul Rauf in the banquet. The total amount raised is close is $200,000. Alhamdulillah.

New Projects

Qiraat Competition

Young Muslims took a lead and introduced a Qiraat Competition. Opening rounds were held on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The final round was held in the entertainment session where five finalists recited for 3 minutes each.

Intensive Classes / Sessions

The convention often hosts sessions in which field experts cover numerous aspects of a topic in a short amount of time. This year, program committee also catered to the need of those who were interested in longer intensive classes for in-depth study of a certain topic. Therefore, 3+ hour sessions were held on the following topics:

o Tafseer of the Heart
o Parents: Their Rights, Our Duty
o Communication and Conflict Resolution in Family
o My Children Don’t Respect Me!

Medical Doctors Forum

An enlightening presentation for allied health professionals, physicians, researchers and medical students was held. The topic of the session was: “Islam, Medicine & Ethics: Concepts & Challenges.” Attendance exceeded 120 individuals.

Lawyers Forum

Attorneys from various fields of law presented brief lectures followed by discussions and Q&A on the many benefits of having a legal degree in today’s socio-political Muslim World. The topic of the session was: “Muslim Problems: Legal Solutions.” This session was attended by a combination of lawyers and law students, with a total of over 70 participants.

Business Networking & Career Fair

The 1st Career Fair was a huge success, featuring around 20 booths and covering the following fields:

o Attorney at Law
o Chaplaincy
o Education
o Islamic Scholarship & Imam Training
o Information Technology
o Nursing
o Relationship Building
o Research & Development
o Pharmaceuticals
o Pharmacy
o Political Activism
o Police & Fire Fighter Services
o Social Services
o Technology of the Future
o US Census

Launch of ICNA Shariah Council

Sunday morning’s main session introduced the newly formed ICNA Shariah Council, featuring scholarship from diverse backgrounds. The entire session was dedicated to answering any questions that the audience had. More details on this council will be posted on our website soon.

ACE (Art of Creative Expression) Workshop

This half-day workshop was designed for convention-goers between the ages of 12 and 18. The workshop adopted a fresh and dynamic approach, which was captivating from the beginning to the very end. Internationally recognized nasheed artist and songwriter Zain Bhikha conducted the workshop.

The workshop encouraged students to express themselves through both individual and team activities. It also promoted the interaction of students from diverse backgrounds. Teenagers overwhelmingly declared the workshop both fun and useful.

Dynamic Stage

The convention physical arrangements committee hit a homerun with an impressive and innovative stage design. The stage featured a huge LCD screen with an animated background. The borders of the middle screen were customized to the theme of convention displaying logos of ICNA Divisions, Departments and Projects. In addition, two huge screens were placed on each side of the massive stage to relay live video of speakers.

Live Webcast

While the convention had experimented with limited webcasting last year, this was the first time that main sessions and selected youth sessions were webcast live for a modest subscription fee. InshaAllah in years to come we will strengthen this department.

Audio / Video Productions

A dedicated team worked round the clock to digitize and release the bulk of the convention programs. All 12 main sessions, 5 Youth Conference sessions, 4 Window to Islam sessions, and 22 parallel workshops are made available through Hikmah Productions.

Marketing

The publicity team employed various methods for effective marketing of the convention. This aspect was more urgent this year due to date changes.

• Regular advertisements were placed in The Message magazine and local ethnic / Muslim newspapers
• Commercials were aired on Geo and ARY channels
• Bulk mailing was done to 10,000 households in the tri-state area
• Jumuah khutbahs and Imam meetings were scheduled
• 60,000 flyers were printed and distributed by volunteers
• Facebook page was created
• Posters were placed on Muslim businesses and masaajid

The major development from last year was the regular e-newsletter which was sent almost on weekly basis. It provided updated information and expanded coverage of the preparations for the convention.

Media Coverage

Alhamdulillah, like last year, a PR company was hired to handle media inquiries about the convention in general, and Window To Islam in particular. Some of achievements were as follows:

• Press conference before and during the convention
• Two in-person TV interviews
• One phone interview for a local radio station
• Print media coverage

Channel 3 Coverage: See above video.

Hartford Courant – Convention in Pictures

http://www.courant.com/news/local/hc-islamic-0525-pg,0,546061.photogallery

Protocol (Speakers Transportation) Committee

Alhamdulillah our volunteer team consisting of 4 committed brothers made over 45 trips to the local Hartford airport to pick up and drop off speakers. Trips were designed to be very effective, as none of the speakers had to wait for the service; multiple speakers were accommodated in many of those trips. Arrivals started on Thursday evening, and departures continued till Monday evening. Some pick-ups were as late as midnight, and some drop-offs were as early as 4:30 am in the morning.

All speakers/ guests appreciated the services and many made duas for the volunteers. One speaker compared the service to Tawaf of Safa and Marwa, and made dua that Allah SWT may reward them with a reward equivalent to that of Umrah. Ameen.

Floor Management

This volunteer team is responsible for coordinating the moderators for all sessions. They not only hold orientation meetings for moderators prior to the convention, but also provide any assistance they may need during their assigned sessions. While some of our sessions were late in either starting or ending, the overall percentage of programs starting and finishing on time was higher. All speakers and moderators were also asked to complete survey forms that are to be analyzed by the program committee for future planning.

This committee interacts heavily with A/V team, which is responsible for having all projectors and audio systems in venues. This committee earned lots of hasanat by providing water to speakers and presenters in all sessions.

The Message Special Publication

The Message printed a special issue on the occasion of the convention. The magazine not only featured stories elaborating the convention theme, but also carried the official convention program.

Matrimonial Services

The matrimonial volunteer team assisted match-making process for the duration of the convention. The office was setup with a private setting and courteous service. All applicants were then invited for a special session on Sunday night to have face-to-face meeting in the presence of their guardians and ICNA representatives.

Food Arrangements

Food remains one of the largest challenges at the convention. Like most convention centers, organizers are not allowed to have venders from outside. Alhamdulillah the food quality has continued to improve over the years.

In addition to traditional buffet services, the convention center also provided concession stands selling fast foods such as pizza, cheese steaks and ice cream. These stands are a huge hit with youth and the young at heart.

ICNA convention also made arrangements with local food vendors to expand their services. For example, the local Burger King served halal meals and area halal restaurants delivered food for free to various hotels.

This year, food arrangements were also made at the attached Marriott hotel for halal breakfast, lunch and dinner meals at very reasonable prices.

Hotel Arrangements

Alhamdulillah, all hotels in the Hartford area were sold out, so much so that late comers were only able to find available rooms 10-15 miles away from the Hartford Convention Center. ICNA made contracts with the following hotels:

• Marriott Hartford
• Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites
• Crowne Plaza Hotel
• Residence Inn Marriott
• Sheraton Hartford Hotel
• Holiday Inn Express Hartford
• Homewood Suites Hilton
• Hilton Hartford

Since some of the hotels were about 5 minutes walking distance from the convention center, ICNA made special arrangements with the city to run free shuttle busses to and from the hotels and convention center.

Parking Discounts

ICNA negotiated reduced rates for convention parking. The delegates were able to get their parking tickets stamped by Information services to enjoy extra discounts.

Conclusion

As is evident from summary above, the annual convention is a huge undertaking. The task becomes even more daunting when performed by volunteers. Nevertheless, several hundred volunteers work day & night to make sure that team delivers on promises made to convention participants. May Allah SWT reward them all for their sincere efforts, and forgive their shortcomings. May He make this a reason for all to be saved from Hellfire, and entered into Jannah. Ameen.

Last but not the least; we invite all of you to be part of this dynamic team of volunteers. Join ICNA and the convention team to serve the cause of Islam. To volunteer, please email us at volunteer@icna.org. We also invite you to share your photos, blogs and constructive criticism to further enhance this effort, InshaAllah.

See you all next year, InshaAllah!

Assalaamu Alaikum,
Dr. Zahid Bukhari & the 34th Annual ICNA-MAS Convention Team