Theme: Defending Religious Freedom, Understanding Shariah
By The Convention Committee
Alhamdulillah, the 37th Annual ICNA-MAS Convention, held in Hartford, CT from May 26th to 28th, 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.
Nearly 16,000 people from 36 states and District of Colombia converged in Hartford, CT to attend the convention. This was an increase of 17% compared to the previous year’s attendance. Additionally 11,000 watched various sessions live online. Alhamdulillah, our community found enough value in the convention program and environment that they flocked to it in record numbers.
Programs & Speakers Summary
Alhamduillah, the convention consisted of 90 sessions over a course of three days. The breakdown is as follows:
• 11 main sessions
• 11 youth sessions
• 68 parallel sessions (32 on Saturday, 36 on Sunday)
Programs were designed to address needs of all age groups and both genders, along with those of varying ethnic, professional and educational backgrounds.
Alhamdulillah, 85 speakers were scheduled to speak, out of which 82 were able to attend this year’s event. Two speakers (Qari Saad Noumani and Sh. Mohammad Iqbal Nadvi were unable to attend due to visa issues). 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.
• Leading scholars and Imams such as Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Sh. Abdool Rahman Khan, Sh. Mokhtar Maghraoui, Sh. Yasir Qadhi, Imam Suhaib Webb, Imam Omar Sulieman
• Leading academic intellectuals such as Nouman Ali Khan, Dr. Sulayman Nyang, Dr. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Dr. Jimmy Jones, Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda, Wisam Sharieff, Dr. Ovamir Anjum
• National leadership of Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Dr. Ahmad El Bendary, Safaa Zarzour, Nihad Awad, Dr. Ihsan Bagby, Congressman Andre’ Carson, Kim Boo and More!
• Family experts Dr. Mohamed Sadiq, Dr. Rida Beshir, Kamal Sharawy, Sr. Suzy Ismail, Sr. Saadia Yunus
• Community leaders such as Hafiz Inayatullah, Sh. Djafar Sebkhaoui, Imam Daud Haqq, Imam Hafiz Zafeer, Ahmed Ansari, Imam Abu Jafer Baig, Dr. Kia Jahed, Sh. Yasir AlKhooly and many more!
• Interfaith leaders such as Dr. Irfan Khan, David Carroll and local Hartford leadership
• Entertainers and athletes such as Ammar Al-Shukry, Zain Bhikha, Ahmed Bukhatir, Asim Khan, Omar Reagan, Ryan Harris, Husain Abdullah
The following 11 main sessions were featured:
1. ICNA Shariah Campaign
2. ICNA Shariah Council Panel / Open Q&A
3. Protecting Religious Freedoms
4. Our Family, Our Home & Our Destiny
5. The Role Model
6. Sisters Only Session
7. The Crises of Liberal Capitalism
8. Giving Back to the Homeland
9. Keynote Session – Defending Religious Freedom: Understanding Shariah
10. Entertainment Session
11. A Call for Action
Note: This year, the movie “Journey to Mecca” was shown in the main hall on Sunday after Zuhr. This session too attracted packed audience, Alhamdulillah.
• Youth Conference – Blueprint for a Lasting Legacy
Hundreds of youth made this summer unforgettable by starting it off at the Youth Conference 2012, 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.
o What’s Holding Me Back?
o I Believe I Can Fly [Back to Allah]
o The Role Model
o The Rights Upon You
o Blueprint to a Lasting Legacy
• 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. “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 whole-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 the following interactive sessions:
o God’s Existence and Authority
o Journey Through Rich Islamic History
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.
• Programming for Children by MCNA
MCNA held programs in four rooms of the convention center. Activities were well received.
Theme: Stand Up for Your Faith
• Fun & Games by Camali
Camali was again a huge hit among children and parents. This year, 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 the Youth Conference area on Sunday at 5:30 pm. The attendance in that session was impressive.
• Tadhkeer & Tahajjud 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 was arranged on Saturday night.
• Midnight Basketball for Youth Boys
Once again the youth boys were all marching at midnight towards the basketball courts set up 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. This year, Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Imam Suhaib Webb participated in the free-throw competition.
• Interfaith Sessions
The convention hosted an interfaith dinner on Sunday, May 27 at 4 PM. Local leadership from all major faith groups was represented. Close to 125 individuals participated in this event. There was also a main session that discussed the role of religion and how it could prevent moral decline in the society. Various interfaith leaders addressed this session.
• Islamic Goods Bazaar
Alhamdulillah, around 270 booths were set up at the convention bazaar. The exhibitors featured art, books, businesses, clothing, hijabs, Islamic CDs of Quran recitation, nasheeds, lectures, etc. This year, the entire bazaar was carpeted.
Exhibitors were divided into the following categories:
o ICNA Departments, Divisions & Projects
o Books, Publishers & Media
o Clothing, Scarves & Jewelry
o Food & Health Care
o Gifts, Paintings & Frames
o Non-Profit Organizations (Relief, Dawah & Educational)
• Community Recognition Luncheon
This invitation-only luncheon was held on Sunday, May 27, from 12 to 3 PM. Around 200 notable guests attended the event. It featured prestigious award presentation to the following distinguished individuals:
o Dr. Ghazi Khankan, for his lifelong service and contribution to Islam and Muslims
o Dr. Agha Saeed for his lifelong service and contribution to Islam and Muslims
o Ryan Harris for his lifelong service and contribution to Islam and Muslims
• Qiraat Competition
A parallel competition was held for boys and girls on Sunday from 2 to 5 PM. Participants aged 8-16 were divided into 3 categories, both of which had two rounds of competition. The winner of the competition in the 2nd category opened the entertainment session.
• 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, the program committee also catered to the needs 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 Intensive: Saved by the Deed
o Take Charge of Yourself & Your Families
o Dhikr: The Divine Writ for Sainthood
o Modern Bio-Medical Issues: An Islamic Perspective
• Civil Rights Series
Attorneys and activists from various fields of law presented brief lectures followed by discussions and Q&A. The topic included:
o Torture in American Prisons
o The Effects of Solitary Confinement
o The Duka Family
o The Response of ICNA and NCPCF
o Muslims Under the Microscope: The NYPD Controversy
o Preemptive Prosecution
o Experience of Aref Case – Rounded Up
o Know Your Rights
• Business Networking & Career Fair
The 2nd Career Fair was a huge success, featuring around 20 booths and covering the following fields:
o Attorney at Law
o Islamic Scholarship & Imam Training
o Information Technology
o Relationship Building
o Research & Development
o Political Activism
o Police & Fire Fighter Services
o Social Services
o Technology of the Future
o Green Jobs
Close to 1000 individuals stopped by at the booths and benefitted from the expert advise of field experts. This fair was held on Sunday from 3 to 5 PM.
• ICNA Shariah Council
Saturday afternoon’s main session held Q&A with ICNA Shariah Council, featuring scholarship from diverse backgrounds. The entire session was dedicated to answering any questions that the audience had.
• 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. In addition, two huge screens were placed on each side of the massive stage to relay live video of speakers.
The Youth Conference stage was also given a facelift. Not only was part of hall carpeted, but the stage also featured a huge screen and 2 large vertical banners.
• Live Webcast
Overall, during the entire convention, close to 7000 users watched the main session and 4000 watched the youth sessions. The entertainment session drew the most audience followed by keynote session on Sunday evening.
• Prayer Area
The entire prayer area was carpeted which made performing Prayer a very rewarding experience. Everyone appreciated it, and many raised their hands to make dua for the organizers.
• Program Booklet
This year, the program booklet was published separate from The Message magazine. It generated extra advertising revenue and allowed more space for listing of programs.
• Sign Interpretations
Alhamdulillah, we had good participation from individuals requiring sign interpretations. While these services were not provided officially from the stage, one of the participants was providing this service in the front row for special audience members.
The matrimonial volunteer team assisted the match-making process for the duration of the convention. The office was set up 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. An additional session was held on Saturday night. Sessions discussed topics related to getting married. They were very well attended and went late into the night.
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 the 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, click here. We also invite you to share your photos, blogs and constructive criticism to further enhance this effort, InshaAllah.
See you all next year!
37th Annual ICNA-MAS Convention Team
Photographs by Mohammad Tahir and others.