The buzz of “Salaam” in the air, entering my ears. The smells of gyro, basmati rice and French fries tangled together, caressing my nose. The wave of hijaabs and kufis in my sight, going in all different directions. The excitement of the ICNA Convention 2009.
What brought me to the ICNA Convention was the desire to meet likeminded Muslims, to feel part of a greater Muslim community, to gain knowledge from those more learned than myself, to make new friends and rekindle relationships with old friends, and the thought of finding hijaabs to match my every outfit.
As I walked onto the topmost floor and headed towards the main ballroom for speeches, I passed crowds of families, bands of children, groups of young adults all headed in different directions to seek new experiences: social, spiritual, and academic. I felt as if I were in an American Hajj – Muslims from all walks of life, and various corners of the United States: rich, poor, suburban, urban, young, old, handicapped, all together and sharing a common experience.
I made my way to the large doors of the ballroom, flashed my registration badge and walked into the main hall session titled, ‘Fault-Lines in the Ummah: Conflicts in Religious People.’ The audience was mostly composed of middle aged men and women, young women and a scattering of mothers cradling their babies in their arms as they attentively looked to the stage. A speaker rose from amongst the panel sitting on stage and made his way to the podium.
In the introductory speech, the speaker opened with remarks addressing the idea that ‘non-Islamic societies are not equal to unislamic societies,’
and then furthermore addressed thoughts on being productive citizens in our nation, working together with all those in our communities. This idea was further carried through by a female Muslim speaker, who was representative of Missouri politics, as she noted that we as a Muslim community should be defined by our content and character as citizens.
Within the session, Naeem Beig approached the stage with smiling confidence as he announced ICNA’s newest campaign focusing on the family. He unfolded plans for a campaign being unleashed in Shawwal to focus on the beauty and role of family in Islam, a campaign inclusive of family resources for the Muslim community.
Seeing this social need being addressed was amazing. It left me with the impression that ICNA was speaking to the needs of the community it represented. I felt content with the idea that our American Muslim community was moving forward as I heard the sigh of excitement/relief of the Muslims in the audience who were in need of these services, or aware of someone who was. I left the session with a renewed sense of hope that positive changes were coming, but also with the understanding that positive change begins from within; every individual can be empowered enough to create a better outcome for their community by taking on the responsibility to get more involved. ■ Fatima Abbasi