Young Muslims from across Chicagoland embarked on Moraine Valley Community College on Saturday, 23, 2017 for what was the largest platform for Muslim youth in the region to coalesce, learn, and share: CIOGC’s Muslim Youth Expo.
The annual Expo, which is in its third year, welcomed hundreds of youth representing various CIOGC member organizations, schools, and youth groups. Activities were plenty, including panels on bullying, activism, and Muslim women leaders in history, as well as an arts competition, sisters-only fashion show, and keynote lecture by Ustadh Usama Canon from the Ta’leef Collective. The theme of the program, “The Way of the Best,” calls to the very best in each human being based on the guiding principles of Islam.
The activism panel included Abdul Malik Ryan, Muslim chaplain at DePaul University, Esra Rahima, Muslim Women’s Alliance Board Member, Nareman Taha, co-founder of Arab American Family Services (AAFS), and Omer Mozaffar, Loyola University Chicago’s Muslim chaplain. The group underscored the importance of love for Allah (swt) and humanity serving as the best motivation for activism.
In the adjacent hall, a panel on women in Islamic history was presented by Lena Tleib from Zakat Foundation of America, and Habeeb Quadri, principal of Muslim Community Center (MCC) Academy. They shared about how Islam’s “best women:” Khadija, Aisha, and Fatima upheld Islam during even the most trying times of their lives. The series of lectures concluded with a panel on how to address bullying led by Safaa Zarzour, principal of Universal School, Dr. Fahad Khan from the Khalil Center, and Dr. Aisha El-Amine of the University of Illinois-Chicago, who offered insights on how to challenge bullying every day through simple actions like speaking out and expressing compassion for victims.
Concurrently, a sisters-only fashion show, gaming stations, bazaar, and food were also great attractions. Upon partaking in their individual interests, youth came together to watch an arts competition in which local Muslim youth shared their spoken word talents.
The competition judges, Jameel Karim, Youth Coordinator for CIOGC, and Khaled M, a popular local hip-hop artist, relied on their critique and the raving cheers of the audience to decide the winners of the competition. The winner, Sophia Abdella, took first place for her piece in the spoken word competition, with Bijou Gueye coming in second, and Selma Demir coming in third for their pieces, respectively.
In addition to the spoken word competition, was a general art competition in which local young Muslim artists were invited to submit their works. The winners of the art competition saw Daria Shafeek take first place, Emaan Shakir come in second, and third place going to Selma Demir.
Ustadh Usama Canon, who culminated the event as the keynote speaker, addressed the young audience and focused his lecture on the importance of love – love for the Divine Creator, and love for all humanity. “The only thing that really matters is living every single moment with complete and total, full presence of love. Nothing else matters. Even when you fight, fight from love. Even when you argue, argue from love. Even when you disagree, disagree from love.” he remarked.
Explaining how many fleeting distractions exist in our current world, such as social media, he highlighted the importance of “focus[ing] on the timeless universals, not the passing incidentals” like going beyond the screen to do good deeds. Attune with the young audience, he implored them to remember and love our parents, neighbors, orphans, and the needy.
Canon was recently diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is a nervous system disease that weakens muscles and impacts physical function. We encourage you to please send your prayers and words of support through this special website: Love for Usama Canon.
CIOGC extends its gratitude and appreciation to the generous sponsors of the 3rd Annual Muslim Youth Expo to be held at Moraine Valley Community College on Saturday, September 23: Wahed Invest, Zakat Foundation of America, and Islamic Relief USA.