ISNA Convention 2012: A Gathering of American Muslim Life
The diversity of Muslims is nowhere better displayed (with the exception of the Hajj) than in the USA, where a cacophony of races and ethnicities, speaking hundreds of languages and dialects meet together in the great “melting pot.” ISNA’s annual convention is a seminal gathering that brings together a unique Muslim by-product of American diversity for three days of lectures, seminars, spirituality, food and shopping at the bazaar.
The theme of the convention was “One Nation Under God: Striving for the Common Good,” and it certainly lived up to its name; featuring speakers from America’s various faith traditions and also highlighting the unique contribution that Muslim Americans have, are and can potentially contribute to the USA.
Eminent personalities such as Sherry Rehman, Pakistani ambassador to the USA spoke about how Islam and democracy are not only compatible but complimentary and the great contribution Muslim Americans have and can make,
“The North American Muslim community is thriving, probably more so than any other place in the world,” Pakistani ambassador Sherry Rehman told the e 49th annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention.
“They are turning negative stereotypes on their heads through their eagerness to participate; to become engaged citizens in North American society, economically, socially and politically,” she was quoted as saying by Dawn News
Also speaking was Assistant Attorney General of Civil Rights Thomas Perez who acknowledged the very real prejudices and bigotry that the Muslim American community has faced. His message was forceful and unambiguous, Muslim Americans are “here to stay.”
US Assistant Attorney General Perez acknowledged that since 9/11, discrimination against Muslims had become more mainstream.
“People should never be forced to choose between their jobs and their faiths,” Perez said.
“We will also continue to fight bullying of Muslim kids in schools.
Perez referred to Muslim concerns about repeated arson attacks on and protests against mosques, burning of holy books and refusing building permits to Islamic centers.
The US official admitted that there were also discrimination against Muslims in work places and Muslim kids at schools.
Acknowledging that employment discrimination against Muslims had become “a huge problem,” Perez said the Department of Justice was determined to overcome this problem.
“We also have a message for those who tell Muslims to go home, ‘this is their home, the United States of America,’” he added.
Recently, the department settled a suit in New York City, forcing the employers to provide equal opportunities to US Muslims.
He promised to face any anti-Muslim material in FBI and a DOJ training facilities and ensured that “we do not repeat these mistakes.”
Perez also pledged to “use every tool at our disposal” to ensure equal opportunities for all Muslims living in America.
Amidst the serious discussions and dialogues over the challenges as well as the potential of the Muslim American community there was also time for recreation and personal interactions.
A unique ISNA Convention event is the Matrimonial Banquet, referred to by some commenters as “speed dating,” in actuality it is an opportunity for single Muslims to be introduced to each other in an environment conforming with Islamic ethical guidelines in regards to courting.
Getting involved in the 21st century’s busy life, more Muslims were accepting the American-style matrimonial banquets as a solution to find their soul mates.
Increased mobility was a main cause behind the problem, getting the young away from extended families that could facilitate introductions.
“People are not staying in one place,” Husain said.
Another problem is that women outnumber men, including at the banquet, he said.
Islam prohibits premarital relations between men and women.
That means no dating in the conventional sense “to protect the dignity and modesty of each,” Husain said.
If a single Muslim was lucky to find his soul mate at the banquet, the next step is to meet the parents.
“Muslims value the process of getting married not so much on the individual level, but as a process between two families,” Husain said.
“That way you can place a person in the context of several relationships.”
As we have seen ISNA’s Convention caters to a diverse crowd, and the numbers this year once again topped 40,000 attendees, making it the single largest gathering of Muslim Americans in the Western hemisphere. The bold tackling of the challenges facing Muslim Americans, as well as the innovative potentialities of the Muslim American community mark the ISNA Convention as one of the most important events in the Muslim American calendar. This years topics, speakers and programs also indicated a community on the move, maturing comfortably into it’s own identity, becoming an indispensable patch of the quilt known as “One nation under God.”