Reviving Islamic Spirit (RIS)​ Convention in Toronto shows the way out of global hatred - Reported by: Muhammad Tariq Ghazi

"Hate is the outcome of fear."
This was concluding remark by Professor Zaid Shakir (formerly Ricky D Mitchell) in a Toronto conference last Sunday.

Speaking at the final session of the 16th annual Reviving Islamic Spirit (RIS) convention on Sunday December 24, Sheikh Zaid Shakir, co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, told a gathering of more than 25,000 people that there was "too much hate" in the world today which was causing overall decline of human society. "Hate is the outcome of fear", he said adding that global human society needed hope to survive.

This year's RIS convention theme was "Finding Stability In A World Out Of Balance". For three days - Friday to Sunday - 30 speakers addressed North America's second largest Muslim convention, with two scholars - Sheikh Hamza Yusuf (US) and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah (UAE) - sending messages as they were unable to attend the convention.

Conference opened after the Friday prayer in the sprawling Convention Center in downtown Toronto. At the masjid area in the adjoining hall for more than 10,000 worshippers Sheikh Zaid Shakir gave Friday Khutba in English and Pakistan's Maulana Tariq Jameel gave Arabic Khutba and led the Salat.

Guest speakers from the United States, England, South Africa and Pakistan addressed an audience that was largely consisting of young boys and girls of school-university age group. They listened to speeches with rapt attention, often bursting into loud applause or standing ovation to the speakers. All the scholars focused on the existing political, social, cultural imbalance that is draining out from religious extremism of every creed system followed around the world. They advised Muslims to light up the path of balance and stability by coming closer, transcending ethnic, linguistic, sectarian barriers.

A highlight of the convention was special attention given to government-approved atrocities being committed by against Rohingya Muslim citizens in Myanmar (Burma) and Muslims, Dalits, Christians and women in India.

Two scholars - Dr Hatem Bazian, a professor at University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, and Sheikh Khalid Latif, executive director and chaplain (Imam) for the Islamic Center at New York University (NYU), as well as NY Police Department (NYPD) and Princeton University - told the world that the two countries were now under the microscope.

Sheikh Khalid Latif took the convention to a video tour of Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh which he visited earlier this year. There he found that basic sanitary facilities were absent while countless widows, suckling mothers and hundreds of thousands of orphan girls and boys have been left grappling with the scare of "human beings" written on their faces. He said the Myanmar government denies entry to relief teams, and does not want to call them Rohingyas or even refugees. Ironically the Myanmar government is led by a "Nobel Peace" prize winner who still carries the label up her sleeve.

On Saturday Sheikh Khalid Latif led a fundraiser for the Myanmar Rohingya orphans.

Earlier, Dr Hatem Bazian, who runs the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at UC Berkeley, talked about Islamophobic incidents (lynching etc) occurring regularly in India in his lecture based on documented evidence. He said there was a global outburst of hate against Muslims and that it was politically produced wherever it is raising its head from the United States to Europe to Myanmar to India. He called on people that incidents of Islamophobia and crimes against people like lynching must be registered at for documentation purpose. Information is necessary for removal of evil, he said.

Several speakers addressed ills within the Muslim community. Sectarian wars between Muslim countries, bombing and destruction of Muslim cities by Muslim armies, also drew unreserved censure by many scholars. Dr Abdul Hakim (Sherman) Jackson, professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC), said external Islamophobia was a problem, but a more serious problem was internal Islamophobia among the Muslims which, he said, was a greater challenge and needed priority attention of the community to correct a grave situation. He mentioned wars against Muslims, undue focus on sectarian differences, exclusion on ethnicity as a major problem.

With these challenges in mind, all scholars urged the Muslims, especially the youth, to imbibe Islamic teachings, return to Allah to be able to withstand the onslaught of inimical forces.

The RIS convention Toronto (Canada) draws crowds from as far away as Dallas, Texas, San Francisco, California, New York, New Jersey, Seattle, Washington, in addition to Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax from within Canada. On Saturday and Sunday lectures begin at 10 am and the close at 11 pm, with breaks for Zuhr prayer/lunch, Asr prayer, Maghrib prayer/dinner and Isha prayer. Like last year, this year's convention was also overbooked as volunteers were seen pulling stacks of chairs from the store-room to increase seating capacity.

Maulana Tariq Jameel was astonished by the presence of thousands of young boys and girls at convention gladly paying entry fee and braving severe cold and heavy snow.

Sixteen years of the best efforts of the RIS Team and hundreds of young volunteers have finally sent a message loud and clear to Canada's political establishment, though not to the media. Again this year, Canada`s popular Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a video message appreciating positive contribution of Canadian Muslims to multicultural ethos and pluralistic character of the country and wished success to the RIS convention. Premier (chief minister) of Ontario province, Kathleen Wynne, whose education policy had distanced her government from the Muslims and other minorities in recent years, personally visited the convention to reassure Muslims and other Canadians that her government stood for tolerance. Patrick Brown, leader of the provincial opposition Progressive Conservative Party also visited the conference together with four Muslim members of his party including two ladies in Hijab. So did Andrea Howarth, leader of Ontario NDP. Federal leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh, first non-white leader of a national party, also sent a video message to the convention and pledged to continue his party's fight against Islamophobia and maintain multicultural and multi-religious values of Canada.

Another highlight of the RIS convention was that some MPs of the opposition Conservative Party came to convention in support of all Canadian minorities. These MPs had defied their party boss by voting against anti-Muslim laws passed by the previous Conservative regime.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf (Hanson) could not attend this year's RIS convention although his name topped the list of speakers. Maulana Tariq Jameel, the great advocate of Ummat-bunn-kar-raho doctrine, was a first-time speaker to the RIS convention and urged the youth to "know Allah and know Muhammad" by taking a few minutes off every day to understand the Qur'an and read the Seerah of the Rasool-Allah and also make it a point to connect with scholars.

Other luminaries who addressed included Sheikh Umar Faruq Abdullah (US), Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad (UK), Sheikh Muhammad Ninowy (US), Sheikh Yahya Rhodus (US), Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed (US), Dr Yasir Qazi (US), Sheikh Sulaiman Mulla (South Africa), Dr Mona Hasan (US), Sister Aisha Al-Adawiya (US), Sister Salma Yaqoob (UK), Sheikh Muhammad Magid (US), Sister Maryam Ali (daughter of Muhammad Ali, US), Ustadha Ieasha Prime (US), Singer Dawud Wharnsby Ali (Canada), Sheikh Sulayman Hamed (US), Ustadh Ubaydullah Evans (US), Sheikh Ibrahim Abu Gemali, Sister Asma Hanif (US), Sheikh Gemali Ibrahim, Sheikh Enrique Rashid (US), Sheikh Abdul Nasir Jangda (US), Journalist Mehdi Hasan (UK), Journalist Wajahat Ali (Canada), NBA Player Mahmoud Abdul Rauf (US), NFL Super Bowl Champion Ryan Harris (US).

A notable feature of RIS convention is its list of speakers, who are distinguished in two categories.

Firstly: They are generally Black or White converts to Islam, like Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir, Umar Faruq Abdullah, Abdul Hakim Murad, Yahya Rhodus, Aisha Al-Adawiya, Maryam Ali, Ieasha Prime, Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Ubaydullah Evans, Enrique Rasheed, Asma Hanif, Mahmoud Abdul Rauf and Ryan Harris.

Secondly: Quite a number of them is university professors, equally well-versed (authorised Alim) in all Islamic sciences of Qur'an, Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh which they have learned from internationally reputed Islamic seminaries in Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Mauretania. At the same time some of them are reputable social or physical scientists, like Hamza Yusuf (male nurse), Zaid Shakir (political science and international relations), Sheikh Mukhtar Maghraoui (who did not attend this year's convention- physics and engineering), Dr Muhammad Ninowy (medical doctor), Dr Hosein Nasr (not this year - physics, geology, geophysics, environment), Dr Umar Faruq Abdullah (history and literature), Salma Yaqoob (physiotherapy), Yasmin Mogahed (psychology), Dr Mona Hasan (history), Asma Hanif (nurse). nn


Posted on Dec 30, 17 | 11:56 pm