It seemed like all the (American and other) Muslim heavyweights came out for the 50th annual Islamic Society of North American convention this past Labor Day weekend in Washington, D.C. From Sh. Hamza Yusuf to former ISNA President Dr. Ingrid Mattson to Ta’leef Collective’s Usama Canon — it was a weekend for deep conversations (and respectable disagreements) about the future of Muslims in America and how to build a more beloved community.
A number of current and former Patheos and Altmuslim editors, writers, columnists and contributors graced various panels as speakers, addressing ideas like sacred spaces and third places, how to embrace the “differently-abled,” how to be a change maker through grassroots social activism and how to overcome “paradigms of hate.” Here, we share a few excerpts, quotes and photos from Altmuslim and Patheos (and other) speakers at ISNA 2013.
Marwa Aly – editor and contributor at the Grow Mama Grow blog, producer of the upcoming “UnMosqued” film and the former Muslim chaplain at Trinity College and Wesleyan University, who spoke at the session on “Sacred Space, Where’s My Place?”:
In talking about partitions in mosques — “I have a three-year-old daughter, and when she gets in trouble, I give her a time out. I make her face the wall. So why when I go to the masjid am I being punished when I face a wall?”
Dilshad D. Ali – managing editor of the Muslim Channel at Patheos, editor-in-chief of Altmuslim at Patheos and blogger at “Muslimah Next Door: Faith, Family and Autism – not always in that order,” who spoke at a session on “Embracing the Differently-Abled”:
“For all the challenges, triumphs, heartache, despair, goodness, loge and light that comes from this [autism] journey, what we must agree on is this: Individuals with autism and special needs have worth. They are part of our community, our families, our lives, and they deserve their chance at deen and dunya in the best way possible. And if we start to put some very simple, very do-able practices in place … The outcome can only be more beautiful and beneficial for our entire community beyond our wildest dreams.”
Wajahat Ali, former associate editor at Altmuslim, editor of the 2011 “Spiritual Appetite with Wajahat Ali” Ramadan blog and currently the co-host of Al Jazeera America’s The Stream, who posed this question at a session he moderated on interfaith dialogue (paraphrased): “Audit us. What mistakes have Muslims been making in trying reach out to the larger community?”:
Rachel Kahn Troster: We speak out and oppose Islamophobic speakers in synagogues but feel like Muslims don’t oppose anti-Semitic (not necessarily critical of Israel) speakers in our spaces.
Carol Flett: Reach out to Us. Stop waiting for us to initiate. Also include non-Abrahamic faiths in dialogue. Lastly, Muslims want to make sure others understand Islam but don’t have an interest in learning other faiths.
Bishop Denis J. Madden: You don’t have good PR. Your messaging isn’t strong.
Imam Suhaib Webb speaking at the session on Sacred Spaces:
“American youth are not apathetic to God. They are apathetic to the institutions that represent God.”
Rabia Chaudry, columnist at Altmuslim, attorney, president of the Safe Nation Collaborative and an Associate Fellow of the Truman National Security Project, who spoke at a session on grassroots social activism:
“It’s good and fine that the focus of programming in masaajids has largely been civil rights, we have to maintain and enforce them. At the same time we can’t be in a perpetual state of defensiveness, we have to learn to take next steps and empower ourselves by working closely with and having influence on law enforcement and government entities.”
Our thanks to Hira Khan, an eleventh grade student at Al- Huda High School in College Park, Maryland and daughter of Altmuslim columnist Rabia Chaudry, for her help in gathering quotes and taking photos.