April 26, 2018 – The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) held its annual ICNA-MAS Convention at the Baltimore Convention Center this month in Baltimore, Maryland. Twenty two thousand people attended the 43rd annual convention by ICNA which was founded in 1968 and is observing its 50th year of formation.
163 speakers spoke at the convention whose theme was “50 Years of Sharing Islam, Serving Humanity”. The nearly 150 sessions included programs for children and youth of all ages including a parallel Youth Conference by Young Muslims, the youth division of ICNA. The convention held during the weekend of March 1 to April 2 held over a dozen programs exclusively for YM Juniors or children below 14. While the children were also able to enjoy a dedicated play area complete with rock climbing, bungee jumping and many other fun activities.
There were sessions on social justice, social services and outreach, the main areas of focus for the organization. Parallel session for women was organized by ICNA Sisters. Separate sessions with elected officials, public officers, medical and IT professionals were added this year. Sessions in Spanish, Arabic, Somali, Malay, Indonesian and Urdu were also conducted.
This year people came from 41 US states and over a dozen countries. According to the last year’s survey, the convention had people who spoke 30 different native languages, making it the most diverse Muslim event in the country.
The matrimonial session gave an opportunity to hundreds of singles and many parents to network and inquire about suitable prospects.
The Quran Competition where children were quizzed on their knowledge of the holy book was also held for freshmen, sophomore and junior levels. There were also several other competitions held like debate, spoken word, poetry and the popular master chef cooking competition.
The 505 booths at the Bazaar made it America’s largest Muslim market with vendors selling several wares and services. Despite its size there was barely room to walk in the area due to the thousands of shoppers who thronged the area well after the end of the speaking sessions grabbing last minute deals.
All hotels surrounding the venue were fully booked however many attendees were able to get accommodation at a further distance. Over 800 staff and volunteers helped run the event smoothly and ensure the attendees had a pleasant experience.
Over four thousand people watched the event live online including many who watched it on their mobile devices even at the venue. The convention app proved to be a huge hit as nearly 3500 people used it to schedule their programs and interact with other attendees creating a social network of the attendees during and even after the event.
Several food options were available for the attendees both inside and outside the venue. Nearly 50,000 food items were sold during the event.
The founding members of ICNA were recognized and presented with awards during the community luncheon. The six founding members of the ICNA are Dr. Talat Sultan, Late Dr. Asim Hussain, Dr. Amrullah Hussaini, Vali Muhammad, Mohammad Abbas and Dr. Mubin Akhtar, and the three who initiated the Women’s wing of ICNA in 1978 are Aafia Sarwar, Faiza Qamar and Talat Sajid. There were several foreign delegations from Japan, Australia, Guyana, Turkey, Canada, Pakistan, India and Puerto Rico.
ICNA CSJ in partnership with CAIR, MAS, MPOWER Change, and MSSA organized a rally near the convention center to oppose the unjust shooting of Stephon Clark by the Sacramento police in California the previous week. Speakers at the rally included Imam Khalid Griggs, Imam Omar Suleiman, Linda Sarsour, Nihad Awad, Imam Mikaeel Smith, Councilman Basheer Jones, and others.
ICNA Relief in collaboration with APPNA, an association of doctors, unveiled its newest mobile clinic at the convention. The mobile clinic van will be based in Baltimore, but will also travel all over the Northeast to provide medical care for the uninsured.
Report by Dunya TV (Urdu):
Report by Voice of America (Indonesian):