The success of these programs in the local communities is a good indicator of what the successes and challenges are each year at the national conference. They are also a great platform for one to involve him/herself on a local level with the organization. Next year’s conference will be held on July 4 weekend in Dearborn, Michigan.
On July 4th weekend, 2011, close to 2000 Muslims gathered in Kansas City, Missouri, to participate in the 7th annual Muslim Congress national conference. This year Muslim Congress had arranged for and subsidized the cost of coach buses, sometimes as many as two and three from major cities across the country, including Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, and Houston.
As the buses started to roll in, and the MC shuttle service began bringing in airport arrivals, the youth programs kicked off with a two hour session of basketball for the brothers, and a special networking session for the sisters. Due to these two additional sessions, and an extension of Sunday evenings program, this year’s conference was actually the largest program it has ever conducted. Beginning at 6PM on Friday, the brothers shuffled off with the MC shuttles to a local gym that had been rented out exclusively for conference attendees.
Following basketball, the youth returned to the hotel to participate in Muslim Congress’s annual Youth Summit. The attendees were all given eight thought-provoking discussion questions, randomly divided into groups, and then asked to discuss amongst themselves their reflections, solutions, and ideas concerning each of the questions. In the end, each group was assigned a particular question from the eight, and asked to choose a representative who could present the group’s answer to the larger audience.
Moderated by local community activist Najmeh Mahmoudjafari and Shaikh Shamshad Haider, this session was designed to serve not only as the opening program but also as a way to let conference attendees introduce themselves to one another, exchange ideas, get thoughts flowing, and in a way, warm them up for the rest of the conference.
Afterward, the Late Night Session’s topic of discussion was the first of a two part series on Community Activism. It was moderated by three scholars, Shaikh Hamza Sodagar, and Shaikh Salim Yusufali, and Shaikh Ja’far Muhibullah, as well as community activist Trent Carl. Panelists began by sharing their thoughts on community activism, problem areas, and possible solutions, before hearing the thoughts of session attendees. Similar to a town-hall meeting structure, attendees were able to voice their concerns and questions about the progress of the community at large as well as their own respective areas, while at the same time participants were able to interactively discuss their own ideas and solutions that worked in their respective localities.
The Saturday morning sessions began with an annual Welcome Message from Ayatollah Jawadi Amoli, followed by presentations from scholars such as Shaikh Hamza Sodagar, Sayyid Abbas Ayleya, and Sayyid Tijani Samoui, author of the acclaimed Then I Was Guided. Saturday’s program also featured a special play directed by Sister Saeeda Panjwani and had participants from all over the country from Atlanta, GA, to Los Angeles, CA. The production was about the choices we make in life, and how the life after death is a reality shaped entirely by our own actions and one that we cannot escape.
Throughout the day, Muslim Congresses ran several Heavenly Match Matrimonial Sessions to help singles in the community find spouses. These sessions are facilitated by scholars and community leaders to help ensure the utmost comfort and privacy of those utilizing the service.
In the evening, Muslim Congress held its third annual Poetry Slam in which some of the top emcees from the across the country recited their spoken word and poetry. The Poetry Slam’s intermission this year was graced by the presence of Al Hajj Malcolm El Shabazz, the grandson of Al Hajj Malik Al Shabazz (Malcolm X). For fifteen minutes, Hajj Malcolm spoke to the audience regarding his journey to Shi’ism, touching on the importance of education one’s self, understanding the social structures that surround us as a community, and other pressing issues. Hajj Malcolm’s words had a visibly positive effect on the audience, especially among the younger youth.
Despite the late night hours, conference attendees attended several of the Late Night Sessions. Brothers Trent Carl and Amir Mohamadi moderated part two of the series on community activism, while a second simultaneous session was moderated by Shaikh Salim Yusufali and Shaikh Hamza Sodagar. The latter session began with a brief introduction and commentary on Munajaat Shabaniya, followed by a very moving recitation as well as a lengthy Q&A session.
Sunday’s program was also quite full. Beginning with Fajr and ending around 7PM, conference goers were able to benefit from a complete day of lectures and workshops. Some of the main presentations were given by Dr. Rebecca Masterton, Imam Abdul Alim Musa, and Shaikh Muhammad Baig. A full set of workshops was also available, covering topics from Islamic Curriculum, Shia Manifesto, and the Islamic Way of Tabligh.
On both days, Muslim Congress also made available a medical camp, which served as a free medical clinic to help participants understand their health conditions, any problems they may be facing, and solutions to improve their overall state of being.
Throughout the year, Muslim Congress hosts various camps and seminars in different parts of the country. The success of these programs in the local communities is a good indicator of what the successes and challenges are each year at the national conference. They are also a great platform for one to involve him/herself on a local level with the organization.
Next year’s conference will be held on July 4 weekend in Dearborn, Michigan.