On behalf of Lanterns I took a trip to the ICNA Canada: Carry the Light Convention to see what this event was all about. I had a media pass, so I thought I would go ahead and interview as many speakers as possible. I managed to get some great insights out of Sister Lauren Booth and Sheikh Navaid Aziz.
Other speakers included: Dr. Altaf Husain, Sh. Abdalla Idris Ali, Sh. Yasser Fazaga, and Br. Naeem Baig.
What is the significance of the roles that conferences play in the Canadian-Muslim community? Will they continue to play a role in our future?
Sister Lauren Booth: We need conferences with content. If you give young people content and stuff to think about that will be exciting to everybody and give good speakers.
Sheikh Navaid Aziz: Even the speakers themselves became motivated to become the speakers that they are today through the various conferences they attended when they were children. Just last night I was speaking to Sheikh Yasir Qadhi and he was telling me about conferences that he attended that motivated him to study at the University of Medina. Myself growing up, I loved and adored Imam Siraj Wahhaj. When I grow up, I wanted to give a khutbah like him. We were all exposed to these various speakers due to the conferences we attended. So I think people who think there is no point to conferences, perhaps they are beyond that stage of just getting spiritual motivation and upliftment and are at the state of formal education. I believe it may not be for them. For the vast majority of Muslims, we’re still at that stage where we constantly need to be reminded, to be motivated, to pray five times a day, to be good to our parents, to be good to our neighbour. I believe they have a huge benefit; they are having a great impact on society as we can see at this very conference.
What was your best memory for you here at the Carry the Light Convention?
Sister Lauren Booth: The amount of sisters who just come and as a human being, come and hugged me. I think that expression and how we give each other love and how the men greet each other still so warmly is it at odds with the rest of the culture around us and the fact that we managed to keep that 1400 years after the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ʿalay-hi wa-sallam is something really beautiful.
Sheikh Navaid Aziz: It’s been spending time with the other speakers. We don’t often get time to spend with one another and share our experiences and our own stories. Last night we had a late night with Dr. Yasir Qadhi and Dr. Altaf Husain and we were together from 10 pm all the way to 2 am and everyone was just sharing their stories, everyone’s having a good laugh, cracking jokes and pulling pranks on one another.
Do you think the actions of ISIS has consequences for Muslims in North America? What can we do about it?
Sheikh Navaid Aziz: I believe they have huge consequences for people like us in North America due to the fact that it is very unfortunate that many of our youth are following in their footsteps. For my city alone, which is Calgary we had about 8 guys leave. 8 university students. Farah Shirdon is one of them who made the proclamation that, “I’m coming back to Canada, I’m coming to get you Stephen Harper,” and all that other craziness that he was spewing out. I believe these people are very ignorant and short-sighted and you can actually do studies upon them, that most of them came from not so prominent backgrounds. Meaning that there are troubled backgrounds, that they had gone through some sort of abuse, some sort of violence, addiction or just general realms of being sinful people. Now they are trying to compensate for all that by saying “Let me go and die for the sake of Allah.” They think they are dying for the sake of Allah but little do they realize is that Allah does not want us to die for His sake, he wants us to live for His sake. That is the greater struggle and the greater battle. If everyone was to just die, that would be the end of the world. The point of living is to live.
This conference has speakers and teachers from different schools of thought. Why is this important for Muslim conferences in North America?
Sister Lauren Booth: I do think there is a pull for reverts and younger sections of the community into fitna, arguing into things we don’t know about. Coming and listening to a whole range of speakers is good for the soul and it’s good for the community.
What does “Carry the Light” mean to you personally?
Sister Lauren Booth: I was watching a little child earlier and she was reciting Surat Al-Ikhlas from the Qur’an. I thought subhana’Allah, 1400 years after a man in the desert worshiped Allah and taught those words this little girl is reciting them unchanged. That’s massive. Carrying the light forward.
Should Muslims have one large conference or multiple small-medium conferences throughout the year within North America?
Sister Lauren Booth: A monthly conference for sisters and an annual conference.
Sheikh Navaid Aziz: A lot of this depends on the need of the community. Without doing a study of what the community needs we can’t really address that. I think it would be super-cool if we did one super massive conference because you get to see everyone, all the speakers and everyone comes out to it but at the same time how practical is that, where all the speakers are free at the same time, a venue big enough to accommodate everyone. I would focus on, at an individual level that each person needs to look at themselves and see what they need. If they need a reminder, alhamdulillah we live in an age of technology, you can just go on Youtube to listen to Nouman Ali Khan, Mufti Menk and you have your fix there. If you need more than an uplifting reminder you can go to something like Al-Maghrib and Al-Kauthar or any other institute and learn your deen over there.
The conference had main sessions along with concurrent side sessions, a children’s program and a bazaar. It was at the International Center, a fairly accessible venue. It was a small-medium sized conference that brought out family, youth, and elders.