Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – ISNA 2009

By Liali Albana

July 9, 2009

More than 20,000 Muslims attended this year’s much buzzed-about ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) convention, which celebrated its 46th anniversary in the nation’s capital over July 4th weekend. The convention’s main theme of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was the perfect way to capture the spirit of the country’s Independence Day for Muslims, not to mention the location in our nation’s capital. Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, ISNA President Ingrid Mattson, singer/songwriter Yusuf Islam and many others came together to give motivational speeches for Muslims.

One of the highlights and main themes of the event was the encouragement of Muslims to become active in their local governments. “Emerge”, a Muslim organization based in Texas, specializes in teaching Muslims how to run and get elected for local positions in government. The speakers emphasized the importance of voting on the local level, especially the school board elections.

In addition to the speeches and the focus on politics, the convention’s lighter side – the busy and popular bazaar – also proved to be a huge draw for the attendees. Hundreds of booths were set up for many different kinds of businesses and charities. It was an honor to see the success of Muslim entrepreneurs, lawyers, investors, artists, comedians, singers, authors, fashion designers, and more displaying their works for the entire community. A personal favorite was the artwork, in my opinion a true representation of the emerging, non-traditional American-Muslim generation.

In the same vein, the Islamic Film Festival at ISNA showed movies and documentaries that served to both entertain and inform, as well as build a positive image of Islam.

ISNA was a fantastic family event too, with a kids’ program that was actually thoughtful and interactive. Friendly volunteers hosted the children, who would rotate from one room to another, including the Reading and Snack room, Wii and Game room, Exercise room, and Crafts room. Kids were awarded tokens for various activities and projects that they were able to use the tokens to purchase toys. ISNA meets Chuck-E-Cheese? Who knew!

While the effort put into making and planning the ISNA convention was certainly not wasted, my one complaint is that at times, there was too much going on at the same time. There were many lectures that were part of some programs (like “Meet the Author”) that were difficult to attend because of other conflicts. Overall though, the convention was a great success and had many great programs that could have been spread out over an entire week!

For more, check out the ISNA website and the above pictures of some of the beautiful Islamic artwork from the occasion.



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