Chicago, Here we Come!

ISNA to gather in person at the Convention 

By Iqbal Unus

July/August 2022

It has been a long time coming. 

After two missed in-person conventions (2020 and 2021), ISNA returns to its chosen location in Chicago for a gathering untethered from the electronic images of our favorite speakers and panelists. This year we will meet them in person and feel the connections so sorely missed on the digital media.

Whether you have been a regular attendee or an occasional visitor, the possibility of an in-person convention will evoke the memory of the hustle and bustle of this unique gathering of friends and friends-to-be, of enthralling speakers and compelling panelists, of exhibits and displays and charming shops and so much more. It was great that ISNA had two very successful conventions in the ecosphere of the internet. If anything, they whetted our appetite for what is to come in Chicago during this Labor Day weekend, God willing. 

An energetic program committee is busy shaping a program that, with some 10 main sessions and 20 parallel sessions, will educate and inspire all attendees around a stirring theme: “Resilience, Hope, & Faith: With Hardship, Comes Ease” Timely and uplifting, indeed!

Chicago’s Rosemont Convention Center is a familiar place for regular convention goers. Being in a familiar place again as the pandemic retreats will be therapeutic. The hustle and bustle in the large open spaces, as well as around the many well-appointed meeting rooms, will be stimulating. The newcomers will walk into a welcoming place with friendly hosts and warm greetings. The city’s Muslims have never missed the mark when it comes to providing the caring hospitality and efficient organization that awaits all ISNA Convention attendees or visitors. This year will be even more promising, God willing. 

You might ask: Is the ISNA Convention for me?

If you’re interested in community service projects, you’ll be in the right place to engage with others in learning about how you can serve those around you and even participate in activities designed to help those in need. If your children are coming with you, there will be fun activities they won’t want to miss and lessons they’ll remember long after they go home. If you care deeply about interfaith, again you’ll be in the right place. With selected panelists from other faith affiliations and speakers at special events, the Convention offers a unique opportunity to strengthen your commitment to peace and social justice both locally and nationally. 

And for all who attend, there will be carefully scheduled inspiring and stirring lecture sessions and panel discussions throughout the Convention. You can choose whatever interests you –a thoughtful discussion on a timely topic or an insightful lecture that educates and inspires transformation and accomplishment. You’ll hear and meet locally and nationally recognized expert panelists and distinguished speakers. You might have heard some of them on streaming media, but there’s really no substitute for seeing them and hearing them speak to you in person. It will be thrilling, to say the least. And you might even get a few selfies!

You may have special interests — education, chaplaincy, health care and technology, for example. They will be sprinkled throughout the main and parallel sessions. More importantly, both general and special interest topics will all be inspired by the event’s motivating theme and by our obligation as Muslims to honor God’s commandments and pursue acts of service and social justice. 

That’s not all. ISNA’s Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) will run a parallel agenda to engage, educate, enthuse and empower young Muslims. Its impact on participants will be both undeniable and unforgettable. With leading speakers and influencers, both from the main program and those especially invited, not to mention wholesome entertainment and exciting talent and game competitions, MYNA’s program will offer youth a unique experience of which parents will be proud.

Then there are the special ticketed events, such as the Annual Community Service Award Luncheon. Well attended and organized for over 20 years, the Luncheon recognizes an outstanding leader who has served in pioneering and sustaining ISNA and its precedent MSA, as well as the Muslim community. Past keynote speakers at this event have included distinguished personalities, such as former president Jimmy Carter. 

On other occasions, government officials, elected representatives and national and international leaders may make personal or virtual appearances.

Representatives of ISNA’s affiliates, partners and prominent Muslim community organizations will also be featured speakers or panelists, for the organizers want you to benefit from a wide spectrum of thinking and experiences. This approach also demonstrates the mutual respect such people have for each other and is an encouraging sign of the North American Muslim community’s healthy development.

And how can one forget the sprawling bazaar, with its offerings from books to clothes to jewelry to technology and so much more. Filled with shoppers and onlookers, the bazaar is a unique attraction. If you come to the Convention just to shop, no one will hold it against you! 

Did I mention the entertainment on Sunday evening? Music, songs and talent galore pull in a full house of young and old, with time to relax and be regaled with appropriate performances.

Televisions, computers and smartphones, all with streaming and conferencing capabilities, have served us well during the pandemic interlude. But now it’s time to give them a rest. So, observing the relevant precautions, let’s get together and celebrate our community’s uniqueness and enrich one another in friendship and camaraderie, commitment and mutual care!

If anyone still doubts the Convention’s ability to attract and benefit attendees, consider this. In mid-May, ISNA conducted its iconic and well-recognized Annual Education Forum. Organizers cautiously projected an attendance of 250 educators due to pandemic hesitancy; 400+ attendees turned up. A vote of confidence if ever one was needed!

Will you skip the ISNA Convention on Labor Day weekend in Chicago? I hope not. 

(TAGLINE)Shima Khan, Department of English, Wellesley High School, Wellesley, Mass.

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