By Ilyas Choudry
First ICNA-MAS South Central Regional Conference
This was first effort of its kind to organize a Conference on Islam during one of the most traveled weekends of the year in the South Central Region of USA. The conference was organized at the University Center of the University of Houstonâ€™s Main Campus.
The theme of the Conference was: â€œRediscover Prophet Mohammadâ€™s (s) Message.â€ The conference featured a huge Qur`an Exhibition, which also included pictures of the Holy Messenger Mohammadâ€™s (s) footprints, shoes, clothes, and many other similar possessions.
The following topics were discussed: â€œThe Essence of Prophet Muhammadâ€™s (s) Message: Submission to The Creator,â€ â€œThe Mission of Prophet Muhammad (s): Establishment of Allahâ€™s Deen;â€ â€œExclusive Session for Ladies;â€ â€œThe Development of an Ideal Society: From Makkah Al-Mukarrma to Madina Al-Munawwara;â€ â€œThe Way of Prophet Muhammad (s);â€ â€œIslam: The Hope for Humanity.â€ Islamic activities for Children and Exclusive Sessions for Youth were organized. Topics included: Seerah For Me; Muslims vs. Non-Muslims (Workshop); Build a Nation (Prophet Mohammadâ€™s (s) Way); Men: As Described in Quran; and an Entertainment Session.
Participants from New York, Virginia, Baton Rouge, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio attended. All the participants went back to their homes charged, having received many practical ideas and proactive actions from the Life of Beloved Messenger Mohammad (s) to perform daily, so as to bring happiness and solace to the humanity around us.
Some of the salient things learnt included that our Beloved Messenger (s), the Last of a series of 124,000 prophets, all of whom we adore, is that Messenger Mohammad (s) is a Mercy to all of creation and to mankind, so we as Followers of God and His Messenger(s) have to be Merciful to human beings and to the natural system around us. Then without thanking and assisting humanity, one cannot wish to receive the blessings of God. All the participants showed keen interest in having a similar conference every year in the South Central Region.
Those who failed to come this year will hopefully not miss it next time.
The program started with heart-wrenching recitation of Qur`an by Qari Hashim. Then, the local President of ICNA Houston, Hanif Harris welcomed the guests and introduced the conference and programs of ICNA.
The most moving instant of the day the last session â€œWhy No Islam,â€ when one young student of Mexican origin was brought to the keynote speaker at the conference, the world renowned scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Estes; he said he was lost in his life, is scared of the future, needs assistance, guidance and light. Sheikh asked him that as he is feeling these apprehensions, is there nobody to assist him as he feels troubled: The young man replied Yes: There is God.
On that, Sheikh Yusuf Estes invited him into the fold of Islam and said as he is aware of God, coming to the folds of Islam will bring him to God and the brotherhood of Islam as established through the efforts of Messengers of God of whom the best and last of all messengers, Prophet Muhammad (s): That brotherhood will assist you all the way. The rope of God, the Holy Qur`an, will bring the guidance to you.
Then Sheikh Yusuf Estes recited Suran Nasr and said victory and salvation for those who believe in the One God, is coming nearer and nearer. It must be recalled that Sheikh Yusuf Estes used to be a Christian Minister and became Muslim in 2000. All of Sheikh Yusuf Estesâ€™ sessions during the Conference were broadcasted live at his website:
Many prominent speakers spoke at the event: Dr. Khurshid Khan (President of ICNA), Naeem Baig, Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi, Sheikh Khalid Griggs, Imam Zia-ul-Haq Shaikh, Sheikh Omer Suleiman, Dr. Yusuf Kavakci, Dr. Hamed Ghazali, Sheikh Abdool Rahman Khan, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Dr. Yusuf Ziya Kavakci, Dr. Tarek Hussein (CAIR), Hisham Ebeid (MAS), Sheikh Rodwan Saleh (ISGH) and Dr. Mazhar Kazi.
About fifteen businesses had stalls at the conference, selling Muslim merchandise to the participants. Tickets were sold at the registration desk for excellent food of both Mediterranean and South-Asian varieties. Shahnai Restaurant provided the food.
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Senator Lloyd Bentsen Remembered
Former president Bill Clinton delivered the eulogy at a memorial service at Houstonâ€™s First Presbyterian Church. More than one-thousand people attended. As Clintonâ€™s first treasury secretary, serving from 1993-94, Bentsen enjoyed a higher profile than others in that job. Clinton took Bentsen with him for his first summit with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and deferred to the former Senate Finance Committee chairmanâ€™s judgment on budget deliberations.
When Bentsen announced his retirement, Clinton said: â€œ[He ranks as one of the outstanding economic policymakers in this country since World War II.â€ In 1999 Clinton gave Bentsen the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nationsâ€™ highest civilian honor.
Bentsen, who flew 50 bomber missions over Europe during World War II, began his political career in 1946 when he was elected Hidalgo County judge. He served in the U.S. House from 1948-55 and in the Senate from 1971-93.
He had even made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976.