Over 30,000 Muslims across the nation are gearing up for one of the most anticipated conventions of the year - the 49th annual Islamic Society of Northern America’s convention at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this labor day weekend.
“This is a platform for discussion, fellowship, peace and family for all,” ISNA steering committee head Rizwan Jaka said. “What better place to spend Labor Day weekend with over 30,000 of your closest friends in the heart of our nation?”
The weekend-long convention adopts the theme of the pledge of allegiance - One Nation Under God: Striving for the Common Good - and will be packed with a line-up of over 100 speakers who will address topics of civil engagement, community service, Islamic law, and much more, including Karen Armstrong, Congressman Keith Ellison, Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, Ingrid Mattson, and Tariq Ramadan.
“We as Muslims have a commitment to both God and country and we reaffirm the American Muslim perspective that we are a part of this nation, we are citizens of this country, and we want to give back,” Jaka said.
For the first time ever in ISNA’s long convention history, as a compliment to this theme, the pledge of allegiance will be recited by a group of scouts at Friday’s inaugural introduction and at Saturday’s morning main session.
“Although the pledge of allegiance has been part of ISNA’s other activities, we felt that its addition would be a continued reaffirmation of our participation in this country as active and engaged citizens,” Jaka said, “This is a gestural, symbolic, and heartfelt move.”
The program will run from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday. Online registration ended on the 28th, but onsite registration will be available for a price higher than online registration fees of $120 for adults, with groups of 5 or more $100 per person.
Aside from the theme of red, white, and blue, the convention is packed with entertainment, professional and faith-based based activities for all ages. MSA National, a nation-wide body for Muslim college students and Muslim Youth of North America will be leading a parallel session catered especially for Muslim youth.
Renowned Pakistani singer Junaid Jamshed, local nasheed group Native Deen, and the football power duo - the Abdullah brothers - will be ramping up the entertainment scene. A film festival will cover on-screen entertainment with 17 films from an HBO documentary to “Seeder,” a documentary featuring the area’s very own ADAMS Center’s faith-based advocacy.
Unlike previous years, attendees will be able to get access to the convention’s 550+ vendor bazaar for free. Vendors will be coming from across the nation with products ranging from Islamic clothing to kids educational materials.
It will also include a Quranic recitation competition, a popular and successful matrimonial service, a basketball tournament, a children’s program, photography and art exhibits, a health fair, opportunities for professional networking, and a high profile inter-faith dinner.
“It really is more appropriate to ask ‘What do we not do’ because that’s what we’re working towards,” Jaka said.
As area Muslims gear up for the event, the hype for this weekend full of knowledge, community, and professional engagement is high.
For four-time attendee Zahid Abbasi, a finance manager for Fannie Mae in Virginia, the potential takeaways are many. “ISNA is media-savvy, it has programs for every age, and a relevant distribution of talks and programs to keep the Muslim community engaged,” he said, “There’s something in this for everyone, especially given the theme and it’s really refreshing to see lines streaming outside doors for lectures and events.”
And for first-timer Sheima Gimie, a University of Maryland, College Park student, growing up hearing such descriptions makes her first ISNA experience one to look forward to. “Growing up, there’s much I’ve heard about this convention,” Gimie said, “From friends who have been before, the general attitude towards ISNA is really positive. I look forward to a weekend full of knowledge and entertainment.”
This is the first time in three years the conference has been held in labor weekend, resuming a 20 to 30 year old tradition. For the past three years, it was held on July 4th weekend when labor day weekend clashed with Ramadan.
Attendance has increased steadily since the convention began 49 years ago, but slackened in 2010 when it was held in a less central location, Chicago. ISNA leaders expect attendance to rise by several ten thousand; approximately 30,000 people attended the conference when it was held in Washington two years ago.
The theme in DC in 2009 fell along similar lines - “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” - in what has become a theme appropriate for the setting: Washington D.C. the home and heart of America, ISNA organizers said.
For more details on the program, click here: http://www.isna.net/assets/pdfs/convention_program_2012.pdf