(April 25, 2019, Washington D.C.) – The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) held its 44th ICNA-MAS Annual Convention at a new location in Washington D.C. past weekend.
More than 24,000 people attended the event at the massive Walter Washington Convention Center, making it the largest American Muslim convention. Nearly 400 volunteers and organizers supported by similar number of staff from various organizations ensured that the event ran smoothly providing a great experience to the attendees.
A record 150 speakers from various backgrounds and specialties spoke at the event whose theme was “Healing Humanity: Lessons from Islam”. A remarkable aspect of the 125 sessions was the breadth of topics they covered. From personal spirituality to homeschooling and college admissions, and from Islamophobia in America to the worsening situation of Muslims in India and China, the Convention covered a very wide range of subjects, of concern to Muslims striving to live by Islam at the individual and collective levels. The programs held the balance in acknowledging the serious challenges of the community, while maintaining a very positive and forward looking atmosphere.
ICNA Sisters, the women’s division of ICNA, organized many sessions for women and also for Muslim Children of North America (MCNA). Over 40 languages are spoken by the attendees making this the most diverse Muslim event in the country. Parallel sessions were also held in Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, Somali, Malayalam, Bengali, Urdu and Indonesian languages. Also organized were many different programs for children of all ages as well as a parallel session for teens and youth.
The convention featured a bazaar with 620 booths, a record increase of 22% in just one year, making it the largest Muslim marketplace in America. Vendors sold everything from tours and insurances to clothing and books. All major Muslim non-profits were also present with attractive booths and freebies. Organizers said the booths were sold out almost immediately after being made available and they had a waiting list.
Despite the size of the bazaar, there was barely room to walk around the booths due to the big crowds who ensured brisk business even well past the end of the sessions. A huge children’s play area was also setup with many rides and attractions where children can spend many hours. Last year the city of Baltimore estimated that the ICNA-MAS Convention brought $56 Million in revenue to the city and gave ICNA the “Customer of the Year Award”.
Accommodations were arranged by attendees in hotels, Airbnb, with friends in the D.C., Northern Virginia, and Maryland area. The tourism development agency “Visit D.C.” coordinated the reservation of rooms in nearby hotels. The convention organizers had arranged for prayer spaces in all major hotels, parking facilities and licensed street halal food vendors. Additionally, a prayer area of 65,000 square feet was carpeted and available for attendees throughout the day at the convention center.
Community service award was given at the annual leadership luncheon to Nihad Awad, Executive Director of CAIR. Awards were also given posthumously to senior ICNA members Late Ameenuddin Hussaini, Late Umar AbdulAziz, and the Late ICNA President (2004-2008) Dr. Khurshid Khan.
A first time luncheon for the executives of major businesses and sponsors was also held during the convention. It provided an excellent networking opportunity to the attendees as well as a chance to get feedback on making the convention more beneficial to businesses and sponsors.
ICNA Council for Social Justice in partnership with other organizations organized a rally from the convention center to the White House to highlight the issue of the growing threat and dangers of Islamophobia in public rhetoric. Hundreds people participated in the rally on the lawns outside of the White House where several national leaders addressed the gathering.
The convention mobile app provided many useful features including maps, parking info, ability to create own lists of sessions with alerts, meal options, shopping info, and the ability to network with other attendees. The main sessions of the convention were broadcast live and watched by thousands online.
In the past 5 decades this convention has become a must-go-to event on the national American Muslim family calendar. An entire generation of American Muslim families grew up attending the ICNA convention and have made it an occasion to reunite with their friends and families and and share memories. Some youth this year were volunteering just as their parents as well as grand parents have been volunteering.