Dearborn-December 21-26–MAS & ICNA together arranged a very well organized and interesting conference close to the downtown area of Dearborn, Michigan this past weekend, attended by, according to conference organizers, about 5,000 people.
The conference lasted from Thursday December 22nd until late Sunday night, December 24th, and was held at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn, very close to the Islamic House of Wisdom and Islamic Center of America mosques and the University of Michigan, Dearborn.
The theme of the conference was â€œMuslim American for Revival and Reform,â€ chosen by Mohamad Albadawi, Convention Chairman, to â€œrespond to the new reality and challenges we have all been facing in the past years. We want to convey a strong message that we are both good Muslims as well as good American citizens…â€
There were, of course, several sessions on important events occurring now, including the recent emergence of a powerful civic engagement by Muslims to counter perceived strident bigotry, intolerance, and radical war-mongering by many among the elected Republican officials. Imam Mahdi Bray and Jameel Johnson, both heavily involved in organizing Muslim voters in the recent 2006 elections, pointed out that even anti-Muslim newspapers like the Washington Times had announced in the prelude to the 06 elections that Muslim votes would be crucial. They highlighted one particularly important example (among many other positive examples of decisive Muslim involvement in elections), the defeat of George Allen, now famous for his racial slur against an Indian man. 47,000 Muslims voted against Allen, swinging the election in favor of his opponent Jim Webb (D-VA) (who won by only 8,000 votes).
Bray and Johnson both emphasized the real on-the-ground organizational work that had gone into the defeat of Allen (and other Republican candidates), based on political know-how and knowledge of numbers of voters. They emphasized the rule that politicians can always count votes, money, and volunteers.
Some sessions were conducted in Arabic, and it must be said that in fact these sessions were better attended than the English language sessions. (a Saturday afternoon Arabic session â€œfrank discussion on the current status of Muslim Youthâ€ had a rapt audience of about 1,000, while next door the English-language session on Muslim civic engagement collected only a few hundred audience members.
The sessions were evenly distributed between sessions with titles that had â€œmissionary zealâ€ aimed at getting young people more involved in Islam, other sessions aimed at educating attendees about Arabic and fiqh, sessions aimed at giving guidance on how to have families in the West, and a few on other aspects of gaining political clout within the American political system.
Of course prayers were observed in congregation during the event, and the conference supplied a bazaar area attended by several vendors (mainly the large nation-wide organizations like Harun Yahyaâ€™s US bookstore and Life and Islamic Relief, but also a smattering of small mom-and-pop perfume and clothing vendors) who appeared to be doing moderately good business. The event ended with comedy, entertainment, and talent shows.
The conference was a testament to ICNA and MASâ€™s planning and organizational competence, as everything seemed to go off well.
There were at least 30 speakers at the convention, including Dr. Suhail Ghannoushi, Dr. Khurshid Khan, Dr. Muhamad El-Qatanani, Dr. Hamad Gazali, Dr. Esam Omeish, Imam Ahmad al-Khaldy, Imam Zubair Buchicki, Imam Muhamad El-Hanouti, Muslema Purmul, Mazen Mukhtar, Mohamad Aftab, Marwan Marouf, Hossam El-Jabri, Dr. Hazem Said, Imam Taha Hassane, Dr. Imad Damaj, Dr. Hisham Abdallah, Dr. Suhail Ghanoushi, Dr. Ragheb El-Sirgany, Dr. Esam Omeish, Dr. Khurshid Khan, Imam Kounsouah, Raeed Tayeh, Mariam Sobh, Imam Mahdy Bray, Dr. Majd Kam-Almaz, Mohamad Abbasi, Sheikh Jasim Mutauah (via video-conference from Kuwait), Jameel Johnson, Mukhit Hussain, Nada Miqdadi, and more.