Breaking News: Tariq Ramadan agrees to attend ISNA Convention pending changes
Last month, Dr. Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Islamic scholar and leader from Switzerland, surprised Muslims in North America with a public announcement. In an open letter, he noted that he would not attend either the ISNA or RIS Conventions this year due to concerns he had with each organization. Dr. Ramadan explained his positions in the form of a public letter. ISNA responded back to his concerns, which focused mostly on their stances on domestic and foreign policy. It was rumored that there might be discussions between the two parties to reconcile these, as well as several other smaller issues, that bothered Dr. Ramadan about ISNA. Using it’s extensive global resources, the Okra staff has obtained private correspondence between both sides. Dr. Ramadan has agreed to attend this year’s convention pending certain conditions. Below is an excerpt:
Change Themes. Let’s start with your convention theme. Do you guys really think anyone pays attention to this stuff? I’ll give $100 right now to anyone who can name the last five years themes without searching. Look, the conference is identical every year. Why make up an illusion like people are changing the world every time they register for the ISNA Convention? Keep it real. Here’s a suggestion. If you want to make it dramatic, just use Roman Numerals like the Super Bowl. ISNA XIV. Classy.
Better Entertainment. Hey, I’m all for good, clean fun, but it doesn’t have to be lame. Some of the comedians keep saying the same jokes every year, and they weren’t funny to begin with. Does “how many ways to say Assalamu Alaikum” sound funny to you? As for the music, does everyone have to sing corny songs about Islam? Can’t we just enjoy quality music by Muslim performers that’s relatively wholesome? I like the way my man, Cat, I mean Yousef Islam does it. “Peace Train” was sweet.
Better Questions. I have always valued sharing knowledge with those who pursue it. Yet, when I go to ISNA—actually Muslim event in America—I get strange vibes…like Muslims think I’m a rock star. Groupies want photo ops to post on Facebook to say they know me. And then there are “The Poets” who gather after speeches amongst a small crowd of people to greet me. They pose as if to ask a question, but all they’re doing is trying to impress me and the crowd with some deep, fancy-worded, overly philosophical, abstract remark, which says nothing…except how deep they are. All they’re really showing is that they’re vain and must have recently studied for the SAT’s, based on their choice of obscure words. Lastly, there are the Seekers who want me to provide them with answers to all of life’s questions. Look, I’m happy to discuss geo-political issues and address some aspects of spirituality. But I’m not the Messiah and there’s no reason to hang onto every word. Sometimes, I feel like making up stuff with random words—like Steve Martin in “Leap of Faith”—just to see how far it goes. I’d like personal assistants who can screen out all of the above. And Muslim Americans need to cut the hero worship. Creepy!
Follow Up Calls: You know, a lot of claims are made in these conferences. At seminars, workshops. and main events. By speakers, as well as some in the audience who gather after the program ends. So how many do anything after they get home? Is going to ISNA itself their idea of Islamic work or do they learn and apply things. I’d like follow up calls. Anyone who boasts about all the things they’re going to do should be on this list.
My Original Concerns. All the things I wrote about ISNA’s stances and being silent on critical issues are serious concerns. I appreciate the efforts you’ve made since my remarks. There’s still a lot more to do and we can discuss these…but I’ll work with you.